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June 6, 2022

Exclusive comment: Cambodia workers strike at Adidas shoe factory

The Clean Clothes Campaign has revealed union leaders were arrested following a strike by Cambodian garment workers at an Adidas shoe factory last week allegedly due to poor working conditions.

By Laura Husband

The Clean Clothes Campaign, which focuses on improving conditions for garment workers, reported that over 5,600 garment workers in Cambodia supported a strike at a supplier to global sports brand Adidas on 1 June.

The campaign group says over 1,000 workers rallied outside the Can Sports shoe factory in Samakki Meanchey district, Cambodia and presented a list of 35 demands.

The demands included payment of delayed wages and overtime and tackling what is described as concerning access to food vendors to address hunger and exhaustion experienced by the workers during their shifts.

The Clean Clothes Campaign said the Cambodia factory had agreed to some of the demands and as a result workers have agreed to return to work, but other demands, including those regarding wages, remain unresolved.

The Clean Clothes Campaign explained the agreement by the factory to address part of the workers’ demands only came after union leaders were arrested and required to sign agreements with local authorities by thumb print stating that they would not carry out any further activities that would cause “unrest” in the factory. 

The organisation pointed out the arrests go against Adidas’ Workplace Standards, which states that suppliers are required to “recognise and respect the right of their employees to join associations of their own choosing and to bargain collectively.”

Patrick Lee, legal consultant at the Center for Alliance of Labor and Human Rights (CENTRAL) in Cambodia added: “This is union-busting, plain and simple. Adidas claims to respect workers’ rights, and yet a series of violations has taken place at one of its supplier factories leading to strike action and three union leaders have been arrested. This is a clear example of authorities trying to intimidate union members and leaders in the hope of stopping workers from demanding their rights. Adidas needs to take immediate action to support workers’ rights and ensure something like this never happens again.”

In an exclusive statement, an Adidas spokesperson told Just Style the sportswear brand is taking the allegations being made by the garment workers in Cambodia very seriously.

The spokesperson said: “We are committed to upholding freedom of association in our supplier factories.”

The Adidas spokesperson added the company has asked the local authorities to clarify why they intervened and prevented the union officials from freely exercising their rights.

The Clean Clothes Campaign has also claimed Adidas is the subject of a global effort by the Pay Your Workers-Respect Labour Rights campaign, in which union leaders are calling on the company to negotiate and sign a binding agreement on wages, severance and freedom of association.

The organisation explained the Pay Your Workers campaign is backed by dozens of garment worker unions in major apparel producing countries, as well as labour rights organisations such as the Clean Clothes Campaign and Worker Rights Consortium. It added that so far, Adidas had refused to meet with the unions on this matter. 

Last month, it highlighted a major new university study that supports the need for fashion brands to sign a binding global agreement on severance pay.

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