In a rare rebuke, a US apparel giant refuted the Labour Ministry’s portrayal of a closed-door meeting earlier this week and denied reports they were increasing orders from Cambodia.
In a statement, VF Corporation spokesman Craig Hodges said news coverage that the company expressed satisfaction with the government’s efforts to improve workers’ rights “greatly misrepresents” the company’s position. In fact, “we are concerned with the Cambodian government’s recent actions that seem to undermine progress toward improving worker rights, and appear to have created an environment that has weakened the protection of human rights”, Hodges said.
VF Corporation – the parent company of brands like The North Face, JanSport, and Timberland – sources from over 20 factories in Cambodia, spending $350 to $400 million a year, according to the ministry.
On Monday, after the meeting, Labour Minister Ith Sam Heng told reporters the company had complimented improvements in workers’ rights and was increasing orders. Government newswire AKP and the Khmer Times repeated the claims.
Ministry of Labour spokesman Heng Sour could not be reached yesterday.
VF Corporation’s statement echoed the language of an open letter penned by several large apparel groups on Tuesday criticising the harassment of union leaders and several restrictive new labour laws. Company representatives remained in the country on Thursday to meet with several union leaders.