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Adidas, Puma and Nike Suppliers See Renewed Spate of Mass Fainting Whilst Government Corruption Impedes Wages That Satisfy Basic Needs 

2014-04-04 - CLEC

Fainted workers from Shen Zhou factory stayed at Independent Clinic. 3rd April 2014

This week hundreds of Cambodian garment workers have fallen unconscious in mass fainting incidents throughout the city.

On Wednesday around 60 workers fainted at Shen Zhou (Cambodia) Co., Ltd. Workers estimate that yesterday a further 200 lost consciousness at the same factory as well as Daqian Textile (Cambodia) Co., Ltd. The affected workers who produce for Adidas, Puma and Nike suspect that it was unsanitary water and food and strong fabric odors that caused them to lose consciousness en masse. 

Earlier in the week other mass incidents involving almost 100 workers occurred at a New Wide (Cambodia) Garment Co., Ltd, whose parent company also claims business relationships with the international sporting giants.

Yesterday's fainting took place just meters from the scene of January's violent crackdown in which at least four workers were shot dead during protests calling for an increase in the minimum wage. One of those killed was Yean Rithy, a worker at Shen Zhou (Cambodia) Co., Ltd. He left behind his wife who also works at the factory but was absent during the fainting to grieve her husband's death.

Reports commissioned by the International Labor Organization (ILO) as far back as 2011 confirm the link between wages, malnutrition and fainting - as well as countless other since. Yesterday'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 US$177 per month. And as such mass fainting continues.

The government claims that increased wages will stifle the competitiveness of the industry. But the main obstacle is widespread corruption. The ILO estimated last month that 10 per cent of Cambodia's GDP is lost annually to corruption, which in the garment industry equates to US$550 million per year. This should not be surprising given Cambodia's ranking on Transparency International's most recent Corruption Perception Index of 160 out of 177 countries surveyed - worse than Zimbabwe, Myanmar and Nigeria. If that money was divided amongst Cambodia's 600,000 garment workers, the new minimum wage could be increased tomorrow - to approximately $176 per month.   

International brands such as Adidas, Puma and Nike are complicit in this. 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.

The Clean Clothes Campaign's recent report, Tailored Wages shows that despite Adidas' CSR initiatives "the significant change needed for workers will never happen”; that despite Puma's sustainability measures their strategy for delivering living wage "won't cut it"; and for Nike "little is as yet being done to increase wages above the minimum level."   

We call on the government to return to wage negotiations immediately and end the endemic corruption that businesses now associate with Cambodia. 

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.


For more information please contact:

Mr. Joel Preston, Consultant, Community Legal Education Center (CLEC), +855 66 777 037 

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