by Paul Garver
Numerous worker and labor solidarity groups based in Hong Kong, Taiwan and other Asian countries are supporting demands of clothing workers in Shenzhen, China, whose factory has been closed without consultation or compensation. They have created a global petition in Chinese and English languages to urge the giant apparel corporation that buys the products of the factory to intervene.
The English language text of the petition follows.
To view the list of signers and to sign the petition, go to
13 July 2015
Uniqlo is one of the fastest-growing fashion brands of the last decade. The brand has 1,621 stores around the globe. In China alone, it has experienced explosive growth, opening nearly 400 stores in just a few years. Uniqlo products are well-known for low prices, trendy looks and high functionality. However, 70% of them are made by Chinese garment workers who work long hours every day under dismal working conditions. Regrettably, Uniqlo, as the biggest Asian garment brand with plenty of resources and knowledge, refuses to fulfil its corporate social responsibility, repeatedly turning a blind eye to the malpractices of its supplier Hong Kong-owned Lever Style Inc. These malpractices include allowing Shenzhen Artigas Clothing and Leather (hereinafter Artigas), the factory managed by Lever Style Inc., to shut down its factory by secretly removing equipment and machines while denying severance payments and the payment of social insurance in arrears to affected workers. We as labour rights concern groups have been keeping close watch on this case and are very disappointed and angry at how Uniqlo is handling the issue.
Early this June, Artigas, located in Guanlan Township, Shenzhen, removed equipment and machines from its factory without official announcement to or negotiation with workers. This sparked a strike by over 900 Artigas workers on 9 June. Workers occupied the factory plants around the clock to prevent factory management from secretly removing the rest of the equipment and machines from the premises. Many Artigas workers have worked over 10 years at the plant, but the factory has never paid their legally-mandated pension contributions. This led to frustration for many workers, as over 100 of them are reaching retirement age. Some workers even launched a hunger strike in the factory. Workers expressed their wishes in open letters to the factory, demanding fair and collective negotiations with factory management to discuss and resolve the issue in a constructive manner. However, Artigas ignored the sincere request by workers and instead released a false statement claiming it had already arranged negotiations with workers. In truth, the so-called negotiations were meetings with individual workers, not the collective negotiation requested by workers. 108 Artigas workers therefore travelled to Guangzhou, the capital city of Guangdong province, to send their petition to the Bureau for Letters and Calls of Guangdong Province on 29 June, yet did not get any response from the Bureau. Workers were forced to stay in the street in high temperature. One week later, they were violently sent back to Shenzhen by Shenzhen police.
Striker Wu Weihua has been detained since early June. After one month of detention, she has now been charged with obstructing official business. Lever Style Inc. continues to ignore the situation and issued an official announcement on 8 July asking all Artigas workers to leave the factory, threatening to cut water and power supply and close down the factory.
As Lever Style Inc. is Uniqlo’s supplier, the brand and its parent company Fast Retailing bear responsibility for ensuring the wellbeing of the workers who produce their products. Fast Retailing released a statement on 17 June, claiming to care about the issue faced by the workers and to be committed to human rights and appropriate working conditions at all of their manufacturing plants. However, according to a joint report by Hong Kong-based Students and Scholars Against Corporate Misbehaviour (SACOM), Labour Action China (LAC) and Tokyo-based Human Rights Now (HRN), the labour rights abuses proliferate at the Chinese suppliers of Uniqlo’s cheap and trendy products. We urge Uniqlo to demonstrate its care for workers by securing Wu Weihua’s release and the dismissal of charges against her, and by intervening in the issue immediately by asking Lever Style Inc. to immediately pay severance payments and the social insurance contributions owed to workers. Fast Retailing, which makes huge profits every year off Uniqlo’s sales, should take responsibility for settling all payments still owed if these are beyond Lever Style Inc.’s capacity. We urge Fast Retailing to stop making empty promises, to start taking real action to correct the malpractices of Lever Style Inc., and to settle the labour dispute with respect to workers and fulfil their corporate social responsibility.
We again demand Uniqlo and its parent company Fast Retailing, Artigas’ biggest buyer, to
Ask Artigas to immediately arrange for fair collective negotiations with worker representatives;
Instruct Artigas to pay all severance payments and social insurance contribution owed to workers;
Assist in securing the release of Wu Weihua and the dismissal of charges against her.