New report exposes workers’ rights abuses behind fashion giant UNIQLO’s ‘ethical’ claims

20 October 2016 - 1:00pm
Press release

Workers’ rights abuses are rampant in Chinese garment factories making clothes for fashion retailer UNIQLO, according to a new report published today by War on Want.

The report, This Way to Dystopia: Exposing UNIQLO’s Abuse of Chinese Garment Workers, exposes the hypocrisy of UNIQLO’s commitment to ‘corporate social responsibility’ and ‘making the world a better place’.

A series of undercover investigations by War on Want partner, Students and Scholars against Corporate Misbehaviour (SACOM), showed excessive overtime, low pay, dangerous working conditions and oppressive management to be rife in UNIQLO’s supplier factories in China.

SACOM investigated four factories deemed best performing ‘ethically’ according to UNIQLO’s own criteria, and found widespread labour rights abuses that flouted Chinese labour law and UNIQLO’s own code of conduct. In spite of UNIQLO issuing a corrective action plan to fix labour abuses, follow up investigations demonstrate that many issues have yet to be unaddressed. 

The report also highlights two current cases of factory disputes affecting hundreds of workers in the Zhong Yin factory in Cambodia and the Artigas factory in China.  Workers in both factories have been denied wages and pension contributions and have been unfairly dismissed for taking collective action.

Thulsi Narayanasamy, Senior Programmes Officer (Sweatshops) at War on Want, said:

“UNIQLO makes much of its ‘ethical’ credentials, yet the grim reality facing garment workers in factories supplying UNIQLO falls far short of the fashion giant’s rhetoric.  The fashion industry has long led a race to the bottom on wages and conditions in garment factories in China and UNIQLO takes advantage of this at the expense of garment workers.

“Unless brands are held to account for conditions in their supplier’s factories, workers will continue to be exploited to produce clothes for the UK high street.  War on Want is standing with garment workers to demand supply chain transparency from UNIQLO, who refuse to publish their supplier factory lists.”

On 19 October 2016 UNIQLO released a statement saying the dispute in the Zhong Yin factory in Cambodia had been solved. In response, Narayanasamy, said:

“It’s a scandal that UNIQLO should say the cases affecting workers in the Zhong Yin factory in Cambodia is settled. Far from it, workers dismissed simply for exercising their right to collective action have still yet to receive the wages due to them or be handed back their jobs.”

 

Notes to editors

For further information and to arrange interviews, please contact Ross Hemingway on +44 7983 550728.

  • The report: This Way to Dystopia: Exposing UNIQLO’s Abuse of Chinese Garment Workers
  • UNIQLO: Statement on Employee Dispute at UNIQLO Supplier Factory in Cambodia
  • UNIQLO is owned by Fast Retailing. UNIQLO is the fourth largest fashion brand in the world, and has 1,797 stores worldwide, including 10 in the UK. 90% of the clothes are manufactured in China. UNIQLO’s CEO, Tadashi Yanai is the richest man in Japan worth $16.7 billion.
  • China is the leading global exporter of garments to the value $187billion and controls 39% of the market. There are over 100,000 manufacturers in China and over 10 million garment workers. China is the factory of the world, yet despite China having some of most progressive labour laws in the region, they are not enforced and garment brands take advantage of this.
  • Despite the crackdown on labour rights activists in China, the labour movement is growing and workers’ are becoming more aware of their rights and how to achieve them.  Strikes and protests are on the rise and with increasing demands for better wages and conditions, factory employers and global brands are being forced to negotiate.
  • Students and Scholars against Corporate Misbehaviour (SACOM) is a labour rights organisation based in Hong Kong and emerged as a response to global companies exploiting cheaper labour and the culture of impunity fuelling labour abuses in mainland China. SACOM play a central role in forcing corporations to address working conditions in China. 

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