The Myanmar Garment Manufacturers Association (MGMA) has published a voluntary code of conduct for garment industry, aimed primarily at protecting worker’s rights.
The code of conduct was developed in association with the European Union’s SMART Myanmar project to develop responsible business practices. It appeals to factory owners with the promise of being able to export more to Europe and the United States.
According to MGMA, factories adhering to the full Code of Conduct will open themselves up to the massive influx of international orders coming from Europe and the United States who demand socially responsible manufacturing practices from their producers.
The code advocates such business practices, currently including compliance with national laws and regulations, basic understanding of responsible corporate behaviour, respect for human rights, labour rights and improving working conditions, among others.
While the document focused mainly on worker’s issues, it also included a nod to protecting the environment and water supply.
Win Ei Khine, board member and executive director of the MGMA, said, “… there are some shortcomings that need to be addressed. For instance, employee contracts are important but they’re not always a part of Burmese business culture. Some factories need to improve this, just like some still need to make sure there is always an adequate fire safety plan and that working hours don’t exceed the maximum allowed by law. MGMA has developed this Code of Conduct as a guide for our industry to help us all reach to international standards.”
However, this code is entirely voluntary, and, “is intended to be used by MGMA’s members as a practical tool to guide their business practices.” If adopted, this code of conduct “should be prominently displayed at the workplace in highly visible locations. The Companies should communicate, explain verbally and if necessary provide training to workers about the values and principles included in this Code of Conduct.”
“Of course, there is so much more to be done. This code establishes clearly the values of the domestic garment industry, and SMART Myanmar will be there to support MGMA in the coming months …,” Simone Lehmann, SMART Myanmar project director, said.
Myanmar’s garment industry has been expanding quickly in recent years. There has been some debate about how to keep the costs down to compete globally while still providing humane environments for workers.