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TOKYO – Japanese fashion retailer, Fast Retailing, which owns Uniqlo, is partnering with the International Labour Organisation to improve worker environments in Asia. The aim is improve social security systems and worker environments in a project which will see it provide US$1.8m in funding over a two-year period through 2021 for ILO research on labour markets and social security systems in Bangladesh, Cambodia, China, India, Indonesia, Myanmar and Vietnam, where Fast Retailing sources from.

Under the agreement, Fast Retailing and ILO will also help promote employment insurance in Indonesia, where garment workers are at high risk of their losing jobs due to rapid changes in the industry. Fast Retailing acknowledged the country’s existing social protection schemes and labour market policies are insufficient to protect displaced workers.

PT Jaba Garmindo, a former Uniqlo supplier factory in Indonesia, went bankrupt in April 2015, prompting international NGOs to lobby Uniqlo to financially compensate former employees of the factory. Clean Clothes continues to lobby the company on this issue but its efforts have fallen on deaf ears.

Fast Retailing said it has no legal obligation to compensate workers but said in January this year it will make efforts to facilitate re-employment of the former workers who remain unemployed. Clean Clothes claims other brands have compensated supply chain workers in similar situations.

Tadashi Yanai, chairman, president and CEO of Fast Retailing, said: “Asia is the engine for global business growth. To realise sustainable growth in Asia, it is important to ensure decent working environments and to uphold the rights of workers around the region. We have a large and growing network of retail stores in Asia, and workers here make a significant contribution to our business through a network of independent manufacturing partners.

“To date, we have been working to protect people in our supply chain through a combination of our own initiatives and by partnering with industry and NGO stakeholders. Through the ILO partnership, we hope to expand our impact and find solutions to issues faced by all workers in Asia – not just those in our supply chain – through systemic social protection measures and improved working environments across the region.”

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