Industry, govt hit back at garment factory report

DURING a news conference held by garment businesses on October 4, the Yangon regional government asked ActionAid Myanmar to revise its report about safety standards for women working in garment factories, calling the report inaccurate.

In response to ActionAid’s report, an inspection tour of the factories mentioned in the report was made by Yangon Region MPs who are on the Hluttaw’s finance, planning, and economic committee; industrial zone chairmen; Ministry of Labour officials, members of the Myanmar Garment Manufacturers Association; and the labour affairs committee of the National League for Democracy (NLD).

“We found the complete opposite of what was in the report. It can harm the nation’s image and the economy, and investment. In Yangon Region, there is no abuse or oppression as alleged by ActionAid. Their information is false,” said U Zaw Aye Maung, regional minister for Rakhine Ethnic Affairs and for Labour, Immigration and Population.

He said ActionAid can do one of three things to address this issue. Either it can admit publicly that the report was wrong, redo the report or issue a new report.

The ActionAid report – “Safety Audit for Women in the Garment Sector in Yangon Region” – was released on June 5 in the English and Myanmar languages. The report emphasised the discrimination against female workers in garment factories.

The report has concerned businesses and the government as the garment sector is one of the major engines driving Myanmar’s economy in terms of export and employment.

According to an update from the ministry of commerce in March this year, total export from garment sector for the last fiscal year reached at US$1.6 billion. The sector also employs roughly 300,000 workers.

“If possible, the report should be suspended,” said Daw Ei Shwe Sin Nyunt of the NLD labour committee, adding that no sexual harassment of women was found at 20 factories mentioned in the report that make famous brand garments, she said.

Responding to the accusations, ActionAid official Ma Khaing Zar Lin said, “I have already said before that the original version is in English, and when translated into Myanmar, I failed to check it. We are responsible. We said in June that we are checking it and will revise it in a second printing.”

In its report, ActionAid said it found no safety measures in most factories, no binding policies or laws – or ones that were inadequate to protect women workers – and not enough security measures for women coming to or leaving work.

It said most factories don’t have enough health insurance, no protection against sexual harassment and no awareness of worker rights. It said sick leave can lead to workers losing their job, and women workers who stand up for their rights risk dismissal. The report also pointed out a lack of toilets and drinking water at factories.

The report is incorrect, said the Myanmar Garment Manufacturers Association at a press conference held at the Union of Myanmar Federation of Chambers of Commerce and Industry.

The association cited a mistake in the translation of the English report’s title to Myanmar and a possible misinterpretation of criminal sexual harassment in the garment industry in figures in the reference.

It also said the title and the content are not the same. Women’s safety is concerned with all women, not only those in the garment industry.

The study included only four percent of garment firms, not the whole garment industry. Also, only a few women workers were surveyed in Yangon and cannot represent women as a whole, said Daw Khaing Khaing Nwe, general secretary of the association.

Source : Myanmar Times

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