CAMBODIA: Adidas, Nike and Puma "complicit" in mass faintings
Last Wednesday, around 60 workers fainted at the Shen Zhou (Cambodia) Co factory in Phnom Penh. A further 200 lost consciousness at the same factory a day later, in addition to a number at the Daqian Textile (Cambodia) Co Ltd factory, also in Phnom Penh.
The Community Legal Education Center (CLEC) said the affected workers all produce for Adidas, Puma and Nike, and suspect the faintings were due to unsanitary water and food, and strong fabric odours.
Earlier in the week other mass incidents involving almost 100 workers occurred at New Wide (Cambodia) Garment Co Ltd, whose parent company also claims business relationships with the international sporting giants.
The faintings took place near to the scene of January's violent crackdown where at least four garment workers were shot dead during protests calling for an increase in the minimum wage. One of those killed was a worker at Shen Zhou (Cambodia) Co.
"Reports commissioned by the International Labour Organization (ILO) as far back as 2011 confirm the link between wages, malnutrition and fainting - as well as countless others since," CLEC said. "[Last week's] incident shows again the inadequacy of the government's response. Instead of addressing the issue, the government has responded to calls for increased wage that satisfies basic needs with violent and lethal repression.
"Despite the legal obligation that minimum wage must ensure every worker of a decent standard of living compatible with human dignity, the recent decision of the Labor Advisory Council flies in the face of the government's own studies conducted in 2013 which show that such a standard of living requires a wage of somewhere between US$157 and $177 per month. And as such mass fainting continues."
CLEC quoted ILO figures that show 10% of Cambodia's GDP is lost annually to corruption, which it says in the garment industry equates to $550m per year. This, the group says, could be divided amongst Cambodia's 600,000 garment workers, increasing the new minimum wage to around $176 per month from $100 currently.
"International brands such as Adidas, Puma and Nike are complicit in this," CLEC said. "Whilst their various codes and standards state that wages are essential for meeting the basic needs of employees and reasonable savings and expenditure, their supply-chain workers are not seeing any tangible benefits."
CLEC said it is calling on the government to return to wage negotiations "immediately" and "end the endemic corruption that businesses now associate with Cambodia".
It added: "And we call on international brands such as Adidas, Puma and Nike to take concrete measures to address wages that currently do not satisfy basic needs nor provide for a life with human dignity."
On a global scale, a report published last week by The Clean Clothes Campaign highlighted the challenges of the ongoing 'living wage' debate, and concluded that while some work has been done, much more progress is still needed.
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