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Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - M&S hits out at HRW report

An employee helps a customer try on a suit jacket inside a Marks & Spencer store in Singapore
An employee helps a customer try on a suit jacket inside a Marks & Spencer store in Singapore last year. Marks & Spencer has dismissed a recent HRW report on the Cambodian garment industry, claiming there was no evidence of their misconduct. BLOOMBERG

M&S hits out at HRW report

UK-based clothing brand Marks & Spencer, which was named in a Human Rights Watch (HRW) report this month detailing misconduct in Cambodia’s garment industry, has claimed to have not received any evidence of malpractice in supplier factories.

The 140-page report released by HRW on March 12 details labour violations in Cambodia’s garment factories, including union busting, firing of pregnant workers and a variety of other misconducts.

M&S, which was named in the report as one of the brands that source from these factories, told UK-based trade publication Just-Style that HRW never provided specific data, a statement they reiterated in an email to the Post yesterday.

“We have not been presented with any evidence to support these claims,” an M&S spokesperson said via email. “If Human Rights Watch comes to us with any evidence we will, of course, investigate.”

The report’s lead researcher, Aruna Kashyap, replied in an email yesterday that HRW had provided M&S with “concrete examples” of retaliation against workers and that the retail giant had failed to answer specific emailed queries on several major issues involving factories from which they source while the report was being put together.

Upon release of the report, Kashyap said, other brands named in the study committed to improving monitoring and enforcement of standards at supplier factories.

“We have provided the same level of information to all brands and we have had constructive discussions with other brands like H&M and Adidas committing to making changes,” her email reads. “H&M has committed to taking measures to ensure that their suppliers take steps to limit the use of fixed duration contracts to two years; Adidas introduced a written anti-retaliatory clause in response to our discussions.”

HRW also has a discussion lined up with Armani, and remains hopeful that M&S will be open to a dialogue, Kashyap went on to say.

However, in a phone interview yesterday, M&S spokeswoman Emily Dimmock countered that they did, in fact, answer HRW’s questions. Further, they were never provided the names of specific supplier factories that abused labour standards, she said.

“If [HRW] sent evidence with the [specific] factories, we would have investigated,” Dimmock said. “We’ve responded in full to the questions.”

M&S appeared “disengenous” in claiming they had not been presented with evidence of malpractice and should be investigating the report’s claims, said Dave Welsh, country director for labour rights group Solidarity Center.

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