H&M Back In The Search Light

Clothes producer H&M are again picking up headlines in Danish newspapers. It happens after the union newsletter 3F visited another one of the company’s factories in Cambodia and found that workers are paid starvation wages and work under poor conditions, where fire hazards are among the daily dangers.

Last week H&M’s Goldflame factory in Cambodia was the turning point of a media row, as 3F unveiled that workers were only paid 0.12 DKK for each t-shirt they made for H&M’s shop, which are found in cities all over Scandinavia.

This time it is the Hung Wah-factory also in Cambodia that causes H&M problems. 3F discovered that even though sewers work as fast as possible they cannot earn more that 2 US dollar a day. This is something the clothes produces denies, but as 3F spoke to sewers at the factory something else was revealed.

“Earlier we were paid 1$ and 30 cents to make 100 polo-shirts, but now we are only given a dollar,” sewer Kam Sreynet explains adding in consensus with other sewers that they need at least 3 – 4 dollars a day to make do.

This consensus is supported by the unions of Cambodia that says: at least 80 dollars a month are needed to afford food, housing and clothes. The sewers are only around 20 dollars short of that amount, granted that they work every single day in a month.

The sewers have ten hour work days and only Sunday is a day off – so in order to make wages go around the girls work overtime.

Afraid to join the union

The factory uses workers, who are on short term 20 day contracts. This means that the sewers are afraid to join the Cambodian union, as this could result in the factory not hiring them again, 3F writes.

H&M inspectors have recently visited the factory, but the company’s Head of Ethics and Environment, Ingrid Schullström, who by herself visited Hung Wah in 2005, cannot recognize the criticism.

Sewers on Hung Wah are paid at piece rates and according to Ingrid Schullström they are able to make far more that a government employee in Cambodia.

“A sewer at Hung Wah, working at piece rates, makes 60 – 80 dollars a month including overtime. A government employed teacher makes no more than an average of 28 dollars,” she says to 3F.

But the many sewers on short term contracts are a problem, the Head of Ethics admits.

“In many areas the situation on Hung Wah is unsatisfying. The problem with the short term contracts is one of the things we are trying in improve. To improve conditions we have sent more employees to Cambodia,” Ingrid Schullström says adding that H&M isn’t thinking of cancelling the corporation with Hung Wah. Instead the goal is to press the factory to improve conditions.

Read also – Conditions For H&M’s Workers In Cambodia Are Sub-standard


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