adidas‘ Cambodian supplier for its collegiate apparel has paid worker leaders a remediation amount of $47,076. The Worker Rights Consortium (WRC) claims this is “one of the largest” payments it has seen per worker in back pay from all of the cases it has investigated at a factory producing collegiate apparel.

WRC, which is an independent workplace rights association, explained it investigated the matter and worked with Adidas to address the issue of Trax Apparel’s alleged violation of its workers’ associational rights.

It highlighted that the payment of these wages has had a positive impact on the workers leaders, while the reinstatement of these workers has led to an increased faith in workers to raise labour rights issues to management and exercise their rights.

The union president, who was reinstated on 26 April, 2022, told the WRC: “[Trax Apparel’s payment of] the full back pay to the terminated workers created additional confidence in the union [among workers].”

She added that in the seven months since the remaining leaders’ reinstatements in March 2023, more than 400 workers have joined their union, bringing the total membership to 630.

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By GlobalData

However, WRC said that although workers welcomed their reinstatement and noted improved respect from management towards the union, concerns persist.

Trax Apparel workers have allegedly expressed concerns to the WRC about the composition of a factory-level committee that was said to be established at Adidas’ request on 16 September, 2023. This committee is said to include members from another union that is alleged to be “heavily influenced” by the management, raising doubts among workers about its ability to address labour rights concerns adequately.

An Adidas spokesperson did not comment on the issues related to the committee but pointed out that its own investigations and those of the labour authority did not conclude that the dismissals were unlawful.

The spokesperson added: “Nevertheless, to address the claims being made by the union, Adidas asked for an independent arbitrator to help mediate this case and ultimately a negotiated settlement was achieved, with the reinstatement of the affected workers, with backpay.”

What happened in the Cambodia factory in 2020?

Trax Apparel reportedly failed to renew the contracts of eight workers in 2020 who were leaders and activists in a then newly formed union at the factory, according to WRC.

WRC noted that despite continued engagement, the factory further violated these garment workers’ right in 2022. Allegedly, the factory refused to reinstate any of the eight so-called “discriminatorily” dismissed employees, and further imposed conditions such as the workers forfeiting their reinstatement rights and the eight workers sacrificing half their owed back wages.

Trax Apparel allegedly also restricted the four reinstated workers to an area in the factory isolated from more than 95% of the factory’s workers.

In October 2022 Adidas became the subject of a week of civil action and protests globally over the company’s “refusal” to take responsibility for workers’ rights in its supply chain.

WRC claimed that after further engagement with Adidas, Trax Apparel agreed to reinstate the remaining worker leaders and provide full back pay to all eight of the workers who were dismissed.

These workers were remediated in last February (2023) and all seven of the reinstated workers are claimed to have returned to their original positions in the factory’s main production areas.

WRC said it would continue to monitor the factory, in particular this new committee, to ensure that Trax Apparel complies with university codes of conduct and Cambodian labour law.