Protest against UNIQLO supplier
On the morning of June 24th, a number of NGOs and trade unions went to the office of UNIQLO in Kwun Tong, to protest against one of the UNIQLO's OEM supplier, the Lever Garment Limited. Lever's subsidary Artigas Clothing & Leatherware Factory (hereafter Artigas) has a long history in arrears of social security contribution, and workers' benefits. Recently, the employer even went as far as planning a relocation of production plant without the consent of the workers. As a result, several hundred workers went on strike this month. The protesters chanted slogans in front of the office and peacefully dispersed after submitting a petition letter.
Five hundred workers from the Artigas at Mission Hills, Shenzhen went on strike since June 8th; and garrisoned the factory to prevent the employer from evacuating the factory. As a matter of fact, customer orders have already been sent to another factory in Shenzhen—Lever Leather Factory—since this May. However, the new plant simply cannot accommodate all the workers from the old plant. Meanwhile, many workers from the old plant have been working for more than ten years and some of them are reaching the statutory retirement age. Not only did they found out the employer has not been paying for their social security contribution in years, they also learned that the rental contract of Qinsheng would expire at the end of June. Thus, the workers demanded the employer to propose a resettlement scheme for the workers and repay all the social security contribution in arrears. In order to fight for their rights, the workers garrisoned the factory and even went on a hunger strike. But not only did the employer of Qinsheng ignore their demands, they even worked hand in glove with the local police and arrested a number of striking workers. Among the detainees, at least one fifty year-old worker has yet to be released after he was arrested by the police on June 8th. Meanwhile, their petition to the local authorities and Letter and Complaints Bureau were largely turned away.
The Lever Garment Limited is an OEM supplier for the famous apparel brand UNIQLO, which is the largest apparel chain in Asia while 70% of the brand's clothing are currently produced in China. On June 17th, UNIQLO issued a statement expressing great concern with regard to the strike, and stressed that the company has always valued workers' rights and other working conditions related matters. However, according to the “UNIQLO Supplier Survery Report in China” conducted and released by SACOM, LAC, and Human Rights Now on January this year; UNIQLO's renowned reputation in providing cheap and high quality products was built upon the exploitation of workers' rights. If UNIQLO really concerns about labour rights, then they should first sort for the release of the detained workers and investigate the incident in order to implement labour rights. From the same statement, UNIQLO also urged the management of Lever to start negotiation with the workers and they did not rule out the termination of orders if Lever failed to do so. But up until now, as there is still no sign of initiative taken by the Lever's management; will UNIQLO ever honour her commitment in pressuring Lever? Meanwhile, as the Director in the Board of the Federation of Hong Kong Garment Manufacturers, the CEO of the Lever Garment, Mr. Szeto Chi Yang is not only setting up a bad example for his fellow colleagues, he also puts all Hong Kong enterprises in shame!
Since June 8th, the Qinsheng workers have been guarding the factory for 17 days determinedly. They issued an open letter to the employer, customers, and the government on the 23rd, demanding the government and Lever's customers should not shun from their responsibility in initiating dialogue between the workers and employer. Meanwhile, we would like to take this opportunity to show our support to the Qinsheng's workers through today's action and urge the Lever's management to initiate negotiation with the workers immediately. We do not rule out an escalation of action in future if the current situation does not improve.
June 24th, 2015