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#H&M: Attend the People’s Tribunal on Minimum Living Wages in #Cambodia

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H&M decided when cotton prices rose during 2010 and 2011 that they would kindly cover the costs so their customers wouldn’t suffer higher prices. Unfortunately, the courtesy doesn't extend to their suppliers working in Cambodian garment factories, 90% of whom are women.

The typical garment worker earns little more than $2 a day – about half of that needed for sustainable living. If customers were to take on this increased cost it would only result in a 2-3% difference in the retail price. In the mean time over 1000 workers were hospitalized last year due to malnutrition, forced labour, and poor working conditions.

Despite this, H&M have recently declined to attend the 'People’s Tribunal on for Minimum Living Wages and Decent Working Conditions for Garment Worker’ held next week in Phnom Penh. The event will be attended by many other international brands, such as Adidas and Puma, who intend to listen to testimonies from those working in their factories.

Furthermore, a type of short term contract known as a 'Fixed Duration Contract' (FDC) is currently the most prevalent form of employee-employer relationship. FDCs are intended to be used in situations of seasonal labor or when a company experiences sudden temporary peaks in demand. In such circumstances it is necessary to be able to terminate employment once such a need ceases, and that benefits such as annual leave may not be appropriate. H&Ms suppliers in contrast are not engaged in short term business strategies, but nevertheless utilize this legal loophole to limit the costs of benefits they would otherwise be obliged to pay their workers. The ease of which such contracts can be terminated means that any worker who complains about their circumstances, refuses to work overtime, asks for maternity leave, or attempts to utilize their right to unionization is immediately placed in a precarious situation.

As Union activities become further sapped, the actors who hold the key to improving the situation of workers is the international retailers. In the past when they have spoken out about their concerns real changes happened almost immediately. This is why it is so frustrating to witness H&M to be so apathetic on an issue that they could easily play a key part in resolving.



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