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Uniqlo under fire for dealing with Chinese factories accused of putting workers at risk

#Uniqlo is SGI company.

http://www.japantoday.com/category/business/view/uniqlo-under-fire-over-factory-conditions-low-pay-in-china
→Business Jan. 15, 2015 - 01:20PM JST
japan today
HONG KONG —
Japanese clothing giant Uniqlo has come under fire for buying supplies from Chinese factories accused of putting workers at risk in unsafe conditions, with sewage on the factory floor, extremely high temperatures and poor ventilation.
The claims made by a Hong Kong-based human rights group on Tuesday come as the apparel chain pursues aggressive expansion plans in a bid to challenge international brands like Zara, H&M and Gap.
Uniqlo, a unit of Fast Retailing Co, said that while it had “different views on some of the issues” in the report, it had opened an investigation and acknowledged the probe by Students and Scholars Against Corporate Misbehavior (SACOM) “found several problems”.
SACOM accused the clothing firm, known for its cheap chic clothing basics, of buying from two suppliers in China’s southern Guangdong province that made employees work long hours for low pay in unsafe conditions.
The group, which carried out its investigation between July and November 2014, said the Uniqlo suppliers also had a tough management style and did not allow workers to voice their concerns.
“The factories have neglected work safety, putting workers at risk,” it said.
The rights group in particular cited “extremely high shop floor temperatures, dirty sewage flowing all over the floor, unsafe facilities, poor ventilation with dense cotton dust filling the air, irritating smells and high risk of electricity leakage.”
It noted that “topless workers put the heavy pigments into the hot dyeing tent without wearing any protective gear” and said its investigators “saw a number of workers falling down from the chairs while handling the knitting machines”.
“Uniqlo as the key buyer of these two factories has violated its commitment to corporate social responsibility,” SACOM said in a statement.
The group said one employee worked up to 14 hours per day, ironing between 600 and 700 shirts, for wages of 0.29 yuan ($0.05) per shirt.
SACOM has in the past carried out investigations into working conditions for employees of Taiwanese technology giant Foxconn, London Olympics suppliers, and factories that sell to Disney.
Fast Retailing said in a statement that it had opened an investigation into the allegations, and acknowledged the SACOM inspections found “several problems”.
It added, however, that it had “different views on some of the issues described in the report.”
© 2015 AFP

Japan retailer Uniqlo to step up controls on China suppliers
http://mainichi.jp/english/english/newsselect/news/20150117p2g00m0bu031000c.html
mainichi
In this Sept. 30, 2013 file photo, customers throng to the newly opened Uniqlo flagship store in Shanghai, China. (AP Photo/Eugene Hoshiko)
In this Sept. 30, 2013 file photo, customers throng to the newly opened Uniqlo flagship store in Shanghai, China. (AP Photo/Eugene Hoshiko)
TOKYO (AP) -- Japanese fashion giant Fast Retailing Co. is tightening controls on treatment of workers at key suppliers' factories in China following complaints by labor rights groups that highlight the pressures prevailing in the highly competitive low-cost garment industry.
Members of two labor rights groups said Friday they are planning meetings next week with representatives of the company, which makes popular Uniqlo brand clothing.
"We believe that Uniqlo has a lot of suppliers in China. These two factories are just the starting point of our campaign," said Alexandra Chan, a project officer of the Hong Kong-based labor monitoring group Students & Scholars Against Corporate Misbehavior, or SACOM.
Fast Retailing issued a statement Thursday saying it would take action to ensure fair payment and accounting of working hours, curb excess overtime and improve conditions on factory floors of its suppliers in response to the complaints based on undercover investigations by SACOM.
SACOM said it found that workers at two suppliers in southern China were working between 112 hours and 134 hours of overtime a month, on top of 11-12 hours a day with only a few days off a month, and were being underpaid, based on Chinese labor laws. Workers were not wearing required protective gear and factory temperatures exceeded 38 Celsius (100 Fahrenheit) at times, the report said. It cited various hazardous conditions, including chemical-laden wastewater on the factory floors.
In a statement, Fast Retailing said its own investigation had corroborated some of those complaints.
"Respecting human rights and ensuring appropriate working conditions for the workers of our production partners are top priorities for Fast Retailing, and in this we are completely aligned with SACOM," Yukihiro Nitta, the company's executive officer responsible for corporate social responsibility, said in the statement.
It said Fast Retailing would step up monitoring at the factories, including those that supply textiles to its direct suppliers.
Chan welcomed the response.
"We will keep closely monitoring the suppliers of Uniqlo in China and of course we will see the progress of these two factories that we investigated this time," she said.
Overall, conditions at Chinese factories have been improving as global brands move to protect their corporate reputations, Chan said.
"Uniqlo is an international brand, not just a Japanese brand," she said. "I don't think Uniqlo can tolerate defects in its clothing. I think Uniqlo should have high standards for its factory conditions as well."
Kazuko Ito, a lawyer with the Tokyo-based group Human Rights Now, said her organization had found the same situation as SACOM outlined, and hoped to see Uniqlo follow through with improvements.
But intense competition and demand in Japan and other major markets for cheap but stylish clothing means that most suppliers strain to cut costs. As wages rise in China, manufacturers are shifting to lower cost locations such as Bangladesh and Vietnam, adding to those pressures.
"The root cause of the problem is low-cost competition worldwide," said Ito. "Uniqlo is a champion of this market, especially in the garment industry. But many other companies might have this problem."
.January 17, 2015(Mainichi Japan)
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