Thu, Feb 19, 2015 - Page 5 News List

Uniqlo owner cuts work hours at China factories

Bloomberg

Fast Retailing Co, Asia’s biggest clothing chain, said two of its China-based suppliers are reducing working hours following a report that criticized the factories making its Uniqlo garments for labor abuses.

Dongguan Tomwell Garment Co (東莞聯泰製衣) has cut working hours of factory workers. Pacific Textiles Ltd (互太紡織) gave them one holiday per week and will introduce a system to reduce hours while keeping up production volumes next month, Yamaguchi, Japan-based Fast Retailing said yesterday in a statement.

The efforts follow investigations taken after the Jan. 11 report from Students & Scholars Against Misbehavior (SACOM), a Hong Kong-based non-governmental organization. Other steps include ending a system of fines, introducing air quality and temperature checks, and training on labor rights for workers who are not represented by unions, Fast Retailing said, adding it was still in a dialogue with SACOM on other issues it found contradicted with the NGO’s report.

Fast Retailing founder Tadashi Yanai is reported to be the richest man in Japan, with wealth estimated by business magazine Forbes at US$17.8 billion as of April last year. He has parlayed the men’s clothing store his father started in a western Japanese mining town into a global garment empire employing more than 30,400 workers.

However, the company’s low-cost, high fashion production model is challenged by rising wages in China, obliging it to operate in lower-cost countries such as Cambodia and Bangladesh, where managing conditions at factories could prove more daunting.

Yanai has set a goal of generating ¥5 trillion (US$42 billion) in annual sales by 2020, seeking to surpass rivals like Gap Inc and Spain’s Inditex SA, which owns the Zara brand. Fast Retailing rose 0.5 percent to ¥43,705 at the close of Tokyo trading yesterday, while the benchmark TOPIX gained 1.4 percent.

Additional reporting by AP

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