In the absence of a mechanism that pays out garment workers left stranded by factory closures, Better Factories Cambodia (BFC) will keep pushing global brands to negotiate resolutions like the one achieved at Kingsland Garment last week, a representative said yesterday.
“[With Kingsland], we were very clear with the brands that there was a responsibility because there was no one else to go to,” said Jill Tucker, chief technical adviser at BFC, an International Labour Organization monitoring program that helped bring H&M and Walmart to the bargaining table.
Although the retail giants, which had bought garments from Kingsland through separate vendors, won’t put forward any of the $205,000 promised to about 200 stranded workers, their involvement in talks was significant, Tucker said.
“The whole relationship between a buyer and a factory is changing,” she said, adding that international brands were acknowledging responsibility more than they used to.
Kingsland closed in December when bosses fled, leaving hundreds out of work.
Walmart vendor Saramax and H&M vendor New Archid will pay a combined $145,000, while $60,000 is expected to be raised from the sale of the company’s assets. The agreement had not set a precedent, but left the door open for similar negotiations in the future, Tucker said.
“In cases of factory closure, we will try our best to get who is sourcing to come to the table as long as there is no other option,” she said.
H&M spokeswoman Anna Eriksson said her company was pleased with the result.
“H&M has clearly acted on the case by demanding our suppliers to take responsibility for the [Kingsland] workers,” she said.
A committee of government officials, workers and labour representatives will meet Monday to discuss payment.
Representatives from more than 10 countries, meanwhile, met in Phnom Penh yesterday for an Asia Floor Wage Brand Bargaining meeting in which Cambodia’s garment sector minimum wage was among issues discussed. Talks will continue today.