Criticism has mounted against Swedish multinational clothing company H&M in its home country following a documentary released last week that sheds light on wages in its source factories in Cambodia.
The episode of Swedish network TV4’s Kalla Fakta, or Cold Facts, focuses mainly on Cambodian garment workers’ minimum wage of $61 per month before bonuses.
Although this and other conditions mentioned in the program are not revelatory to locals, their exposure to a Swedish audience has had H&M deflecting questions over its indirect treatment of workers in the Kingdom.
In an extended press conference, Karl-Johan Persson, chief executive officer of H&M, which sources from factories including Kampong Chhnang province’s M&V factory, where hundreds fainted in August last year, said his company wanted annual wages for Cambodian garment workers increased.
“We believe in annual revisions of the minimum wages. Of course we want them to be raised and we are prepared for it,” he said.
Recent criticism towards H&M and other big brands in Cambodia is over a minimum wage that is about $200 less than what labour groups consider a “living wage”.
Persson said the concept of a living wage was an issue complicated by the number of buyers in each factory and would not be achieved overnight.
H&M has not spoken to the Cambodian government directly about raising wages, but was actively working on the issue, said Persson.
Europe-based labour rights alliance Clean Clothes Campaign wants H&M to support a union push for a minimum of $131 per month and to map out a timeline for a full living wage.
“Low wages comes at a high cost. Last year, more than 2,400 workers passed out in Cambodian factories due to malnutrition as a direct consequence of low salaries,” CCC spokesman Jeroen Merk said.
The opposition Cambodian National Rescue Party has promised a $150 minimum wage for garment workers if it wins next year’s national election.
Lawmaker and spokeswoman Mu Sochua questioned on Saturday H&M’s and other brands’ dedication to raising wages.
“Until there is global action and movement, these brands will continue to hide behind their heavy PR campaigns,” she said.
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