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H&M accused of Cambodian factory labour violations


A new report released today alleges that Cambodian factories which supply H&M are in breach of labour rights.

More than four factories in Cambodia have been found to be in violation of labour rights despite H&M saying they are “best in class”, according to a report released by Cambodia-based NGO Center for Alliance of Labor & Human Rights.

However, H&M refute this.

"We demand that people are treated with respect and that our business partners offer their employees good working conditions," the retailer said in a statement.

The report researched three of the fast fashion retailer's “platinum suppliers” and one “gold supplier” and said that despite the brand’s pledge to pay minimum wage, this was not a reality.

According to the report, factory workers reported faintings on the factory floor, wage cuts for arriving only a few minutes late, inadequate sick leave practices and restrictions on toilet breaks.

The Retal Gazette reported on H&M’s failure to pay factory workers the living wage back in February, in which workers were found to be encouraged to skip breaks to increase wages and were still not paid enough “to live with dignity”.

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H&M run a Fair Wage Method project which started in 2013, but the report alleges that workers in its “platinum” factories were still payed below the stipulated industry median. 

The study also found H&M’s “gold” factories paid some workers below the living wage.

In addition, three out of the four factories studied had workers that were denied contracts they were entitled to under Cambodian law, which ensures a permanent contract after two years of working at the factory. 

H&M must immediately announce a zero tolerance policy for illegal contracts and monitor the rapid implementation of permanent contracts for workers engaged beyond two years at the same facility,” report consultant Joel Preston said.

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Workers at three quarters of the surveyed factories also expressed concerns over freedom of association in the report.

Many feared being discriminated against or forced to resign if they started a union and many also alleged wages being deducted without consent.

Carin Leffler from Future in Our Hands said: “The workers describe practices which are outrageous, and which violate Cambodian labour law, ILOs Core Conventions and H&M’s own Code of Conduct.

In response to the report a spokesperson from H&M said it was "important to us to know under what conditions our products are made".

"All our suppliers need to sign our strict code of conduct and follow national legislation and we regularly check that our demands are followed through unannounced and announced visits," the spokesman said.

"During these visits we also interview factory workers to make sure our suppliers follow our requirements.

"Transparency and openness in the supply chain is important to achieve positive change and we were the first fashion retailer to publish our supplier list. We also work hard on strengthening workers’ rights and their possibilities to negotiate through unions or worker representatives."

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Published on Friday 23 September by Ben Stevens

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