In January 2018, the Mekong Migration Network and Clean Clothes Campaign joined forces to co-organise a series of back-to-back workshops on the global garment industry with a particular focus on the garment-producing country of Myanmar (Burma).
Clean Clothes Campaign (CCC) is a global alliance of trade unions and NGOs, based in both garment-producing and consuming markets, that are dedicated to improving working conditions and empowering workers in the garment industry. CCC works in solidarity with organised garment factory workers to develop concrete cases of labour rights violations and execute campaign strategies to pressure companies and governments to ensure that the rights of these workers are implemented and respected.
In collaboration with the Asian Institute of Technology (AIT), MMN is conducting a research and advocacy project exploring the policies and practices of the garment industry operating in industrial zones and Special Economic Zones in Myanmar, Thailand, and Cambodia. The project will investigate how these particular environments impact cross-border and internal women migrant workers’ working and living conditions, life choices, participation in collective action, and relationship with local communities.
In recognition of the rapid expansion of Myanmar’s export-oriented garment industry and the subsequent need to better understand the challenges facing workers in this sector, MMN and CCC co-hosted a workshop and network exchange on 15 and 16 January in Yangon. On 15 January, 21 representatives from Yangon-based trade unions and civil society organisations, as well as 9 people representing trade unions and organisations from Sri Lanka, Hong Kong, Indonesia, India, Thailand, and the Netherlands, gathered at Sagawa Meeting Spaces to participate in the MMN/CCC Garment Worker Labour Rights Workshop. By means of interactive presentations, group discussions, and activities, participants exchanged information on the key challenges facing garment factory workers and labour rights activists in their countries as well as strategies used to promote and protect the rights of these workers.
On 16 January, 6 trade union and CSO representatives from Korea, the Philippines, Cambodia, Bangladesh, Malaysia, and Norway joined the previous day’s participants for the MMN/CCC Network Exchange. This meeting carved a space for Myanmar unions and organisations to share information on the garment industry in Myanmar, the challenges being faced by Yangon garment factory workers, and the interests and priorities of unions and labour organisations. The meeting provided an opportunity for Myanmar organisations to better understand the workings of MMN and CCC respectively, as well as develop partnerships with likeminded groups in other countries.
Following a fruitful exchange, CCC network members and MMN project partners relocated to Bangkok to partake in a three-day CCC Urgent Appeals Global Meeting. From 17-19 January, around 60 people from over 20 countries across Asia, Europe, and North America met to review, evaluate, and improve upon CCC’s internal campaigning system. During the meeting, the MMN Secretariat made a presentation on the implications of Special Economic Zones for workers in the Greater Mekong Subregion as part of a series of presentations on global trends affecting the garment industry. The MMN Secretariat and project partners also had an opportunity to present an overview of the joint MMN-AIT research project and seek feedback on advocacy strategies from members of CCC.
While wearied from organising and participating in consecutive meetings, MMN project partners and Secretariat members departed Bangkok feeling inspired by the momentum of the CCC network and the possibility of joining forces again in the future to advocate for the protection of the rights of garment factory workers in the Mekong.