H&M has welcomed the efforts of the government to enact the minimum wage law

H&M has welcomed the efforts of the government to enact the minimum wage law

Hennes & Mauritz (H&M) has called on Myanmar's government to ensure a uniform minimum wage level is implemented across all industries in order to retain skilled labour and encourage foreign investment.

Earlier this month, the government proposed a minimum wage of MMK3,600 (US$3.22) per day. The move, however, has been met with anger from garment manufacturers who have threatened shut-downs, claiming the increase will cripple the sector’s growth and force factories to close. They want to pay no more than MMK2,500 (US$2.21) per day.

In a statement, H&M welcomed the efforts of the government to enact the minimum wage law, but advised it to set a uniform level across all industries.

"If the garment industry wage levels are lower than other industries, it will not be able to attract and retain a skilled labour force, which it needs to develop and grow into a thriving economic driver," the Swedish apparel retailer said.

"The minimum wage should be reconsidered through an annual review mechanism, which is inclusive of key stakeholders, and is aimed at laying the foundation for a vibrant tripartite industrial relations and wage level negotiations process based on transparency, inclusiveness and peaceful negotiation."

H&M, which recently voiced its support for Myanmar's labour reforms, added that failure to resolve worker issues only results in strike action or protest.

"We attach great importance to the peaceful resolution of worker protests. When violence is used by public or private sector security forces to curtail workers’ peaceful protests, this is likely to be more of a deterrent to companies considering sourcing from Myanmar than the strikes themselves, and will have a significant negative impact on Myanmar’s reputation. Similarly, where workers representatives are detained or dismissed for striking, this will also have a negative impact on Myanmar’s reputation and will be a factor which investors consider.

"This lack of clarity in the regulatory environment can cause business uncertainty and we encourage the Minimum Wage Law’s urgent implementation, uniform across all industries."

Last week, fashion brands and retailers who are members of the Ethical Trading Initiative (ETI) also urged the Myanmar Government to resist calls to exempt the country's garment manufacturers from a new minimum wage.

Click here to read more about H&M's support of Myanmar's path to labour reform.