Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Top H&M suppliers called out over alleged labour rights violations

Top H&M suppliers called out over alleged labour rights violations

An employee leaves a Phnom Penh factory in 2013 where H&M garments were being produced.
An employee leaves a Phnom Penh factory in 2013 where H&M garments were being produced. Vireak Mai

Top H&M suppliers called out over alleged labour rights violations

Four premium suppliers for Swedish clothing giant H&M have been called out by a local labour rights group for their continued use of short-term contracts, hampering employees’ ability to unionise and, in one case, allegedly paying workers less than the $140 monthly minimum wage.

In a report titled When ‘best’ is far from good enough and released on Friday, labour rights NGO Central surveyed 38 workers from four suppliers for H&M – three rated “platinum” and one “gold”, factory categories the multinational uses to rate supplier compliance to labour standards and laws.

Citing H&M’s own commitments to ensure workers are paid a fair living wage, the report says that even its “top ranked” and “preferred” factories were falling short of industry averages.

For instance, while the three platinum suppliers – Eastex Garment Co and Seduno Investment Cambo Fashion in Phnom Penh, and Vanco Industrial in Kandal – were found to be paying workers on average $172 a month, more than the minimum wage, the figure was still below the industry average of $178 per month.

However, starting this year, the fourth supplier – M&V International in Phnom Penh – was allegedly failing to even pay the $140 minimum stipulated by law. While it had been paying workers above the industry average as of mid-2015, work stoppages stemming from falling orders this year – during which workers were allegedly not paid, in violation of the Labour Law – forced average wages as low as $136 a month.

Carin Leffler, urgent appeals coordinator at Netherland-based Clean Clothes Campaign, which has long criticised brands’ management of their supply chains, called upon “H&M to immediately secure orders at M&V and take concrete steps to ensure considerably higher wages for workers in their Cambodian factories”.

The Central report also found other breaches of H&M’s commitments. Workers at the three platinum factories were docked from $2.50 to $15 for coming five to 10 minutes late to work – disciplinary measures that H&M supposedly does not permit. It found continued use of two- to six-month short-term contracts at Eastex and Vanco, despite H&M’s assurance that workers who had achieved two years of seniority would get undetermined duration contracts.

Neither the Labour Ministry nor the four factories could be reached for comment yesterday.

When presented with the findings, H&M did not address specific concerns raised by the report, instead only saying it was working with various stakeholders to improve its supply chain. “The report raises important issues which we work on every day and in all the markets we buy our products from,” a spokesperson for the company said via email.

Ath Thorn, president of Coalition of Cambodian Apparel Workers Democratic Union, said he hadn’t read the report, but that M&V should compensate workers if they were paid below the minimum wage.

He added that the prevalent use of short-term contracts “was not surprising”, and was a result of lax enforcement of the Labour Law.

MOST VIEWED

  • ‘Education’ a priority traffic-law penalty

    A top National Police official on June 21 neither rejected nor confirmed the authenticity of a leaked audio message, which has gone viral on social media, on a waiver of fines for a number of road traffic-related offences. General Him Yan, deputy National Police chief in

  • Siem Reap’s $18M zoo said to educate public, help wildlife

    Angkor Wildlife and Aquarium Co Ltd has invested $18 million in a zoo in Siem Reap province, which will be opened in October to educate and promote animal conservation as well as attract national and international tourists. Currently, the Angkor Wildlife and Aquarium is building the

  • Volunteer scheme to foster ‘virtuous’ humanitarian spirit

    A senior education official said volunteer work contributes to solidarity and promotes a virtuous humanitarian spirit among the youth and communities. Serei Chumneas, undersecretary of state at the Ministry of Education, Youth and Sport, made the comment during the opening of a training programme called “

  • Chinese firms unveil preliminary results on metro, monorail for capital

    Minister of Public Works and Transport Sun Chanthol and representatives from China Road and Bridge Corp (CRBC) and its parent company, the state-owned China Communications Construction Co Ltd (CCCC), met on June 24 for talks on results of the firms’ preliminary study on a potential metro

  • Nestle’s debut may spur dairy market

    Leading confectionery manufacturer Nestle plans to invest in Cambodia by setting up an operation in the near future, a move majorly hailed by local dairy farmers as a means of boosting the fresh milk market in the Kingdom. During a visit by a delegation led

  • ACLEDA, WU to enable global money transfers

    Cambodia's largest commercial bank by total assets ACLEDA Bank Plc and global money transfer firm Western Union (WU) have partnered to offer customers cross-border money transfers to 200 countries via “ACLEDA mobile” app. In Channy, president and group managing director of ACLEDA, said the June 22 agreement