Concerns for workers' welfare at Cambodian suppliers
Human Rights Watch (HRW) have criticised western retail giants over "discriminatory labour conditions" in Cambodian factories.
A Human Rights Watch report, released earlier this month, outlined complaints by a number of workers.
HRW said workers in Cambodia’s garment factories who produced name-brand clothing sold in the US, Canada and Europe, often had to come to grips with "discriminatory and exploitative labor conditions."
According to HRW, the combination of short-term contracts which made it easier to get rid of workers at any moment, poor government labour inspection and enforcement, as well as aggressive tactics against independent unions, made it extremely difficult for workers to assert their rights.
Campaigners spoke to workers at a factory which produced for Gap. The factory allegedly discriminated against pregnant workers in hiring. Workers reported that women who gave birth did not receive maternity pay even when they had worked at the factory for over a year.
The workers described seeing a fellow worker dismissed for refusing overtime work. Even though the factory employed more than 300 workers, there was no infirmary or nurse in the factory. They also said the managers of the factory had taken a "hostile approach to unions,” so workers were scared of forming a union or openly organising within factory premises.
Marks and Spencer
Workers at a small subcontractor factory that was producing for Marks and Spencer told HRW that they received three-month fixed term contracts, which were extended beyond two years. Factory managers allegedly dismissed workers who raised concerns about working conditions or chose not to renew their contracts. Issues raised by workers that we interviewed included discrimination against pregnant workers, lack of sick leave, forced over time, and threats against unionising.
Workers from two subcontractor factories that produced for Joe Fresh told HRW that they were hired on three-month short-term contracts repeatedly renewed beyond two years. Workers reported a number of labour law violations, including wages lower than the then-statutory minimum of $80, forced overtime without overtime pay rates, absence of maternity pay for eligible workers, and disproportionate deductions of their monthly atten dance bonus for a single day of sick leave.
The factories did not have a legally mandated infirmary even though there were more than 50 workers in each factory. Workers said that the subcontractor factories also employed children and hid them when there were visitors.
Laws not working
According to the Cambodian Ministry of Industry and Handicraft, women made up 90 percent of the country’s more than 700,000 garment workers in 1,200 garment businesses. Pregnancy-related discrimination and sexual harassment at the workplace were the two key concerns for women employees, according to HRW. Cambodia’s Labour Law prohibited sexual harassment, but hadn't defined it.
The report said many international clothing brands had failed to promote workers' rights because of poor supply chain transparency, the absence of protection for whistleblowers and a failure to help factories correct problems.
Although under international law the Cambodian government had obligations to ensure that the rights of workers were respected, local labour inspectorate had been "wholly ineffectual and the subject of numerous corruption allegations."
The full report is available from HRW here. (opens in a new window)
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