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Uniqlo promises to improve life for workers

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A woman at Uniqlo in Tokyo. (Reuters/Yuya Shino)

Fast-fashion giant Uniqlo has pledged to improve the working conditions at its suppliers in China, after a report detailed workers were subjected to unsafe, harsh treatment at two factories in southern China.

According to the report from the Hong Kong-based Students and Scholars Against Corporate Misbehaviour, workers put in extremely long hours for below-average salaries in the manufacturing-heavy province of Guangzhou. Unsafe working conditions included floors covered in sewage, high temperatures that sometimes caused workers to faint, and poor ventilation. Workers were also docked pay for making mistakes at work.

Uniqlo’s parent company, Japan’s Fast Retailing Co, released a statement today saying that it has called on the factories to increase working holidays for employees, institute protective clothing, and better monitor air quality in their plants. The statement also said that the factories were being asked to eliminate fines against workers, and establish workers’ unions.

It’s a smart response for the company, which was criticized for taking months to sign an international safety pact for textile operations in Bangladesh, after a building collapse that left over 1,000 people dead. About 70% of Uniqlo’s products come from China, where workers are increasingly demanding better treatment.

“Respecting human rights and ensuring appropriate working conditions for the workers of our production partners are top priorities for Fast Retailing,” Yukihiro Nitta, head of corporate social responsibility at Fast Retailing, said in a statement. The company plans to check on the two factories in question within a month and work with outside groups to monitor them.

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