Swedish apparel giant H&M yesterday responded to a new report that alleged labour rights abuses in its Cambodian supplier factories by saying such issues plagued the entire industry and were difficult for any one company to fix.
The independent investigation by Asia Floor Wage Alliance, which interviewed 201 workers at 12 H&M supplier factories in the Kingdom, found a large number of workers at nine factories were employed on fixed-duration contracts, while many were forced to work long overtime hours and threatened with termination if they became pregnant.
H&M press officer Thérèse Sundberg said partnerships with organisations, such as the International Labour Organization [ILO] and trade unions, were important in addressing such shortcomings. “The issues addressed in the report are industry-wide problems,” she said. “They are often difficult to address as an individual company and we firmly believe that collaboration is key.”
Meanwhile, Garment Manufacturers Association in Cambodia deputy secretary-general Kaing Monika rejected the results of the study, saying the sample size was too small. “Also, it’s likely to be [more] subjective than objective,” he said.
Working conditions in the garment industry were more accurately reflected in reports by the ILO’s Better Factories Cambodia (BFC) program, he added.
A BFC report last July found slight improvements, although it cited continuing issues with overtime and occupational safety and health.
BFC communications assistant Ly Sokheng said officials hadn’t reviewed the new report yet, but were “looking forward to a constructive discussion” on the “important topic” at the International Labour Conference in June.