Uniqlo under fire for poor factory conditions
An investigation has found several instances of “harsh and dangerous” working conditions at two Chinese factories employed by Japanese apparel company Fast Retailing for its fast-fashion Uniqlo brand, according to the Hong Kong-based Students and Scholars Against Corporate Misbehavior (SACOM).
SACOM found workers were underpaid, forced to work long hours, faced fines and harsh punishments, and had no recourse to communicate with management. Investigators also found factories with sewage-covered floors, electrical safety issues, poor ventilation, and oppressive heat.
SACOM was also told that a Uniqlo representative regularly visited the factories, indicating that the retailer may have been aware of the conditions. Fast Retailing has said it has taken steps to improve conditions at the Chinese factories but disputes many details in the report.
A report like this is disheartening, coming not even two years after the tragedy in a garment factory in Bangladesh. Fast Retailing is disputing the overall conclusions and some of the details in this particular report, but admits that it has found — and says it’s taking steps to remedy — problems with working conditions at the factories.
These audits, which help throw light on these situations, are important to the process of keeping retailers honest and protecting workers and ensuring fair labor conditions. But as long as consumers value the extreme fast-and-cheap approach of fast-fashion retailers like Uniqlo, those retailers will continue to feel pressure to cut costs in their manufacturing process.
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