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Corporate Social Deniability: Walmart and H&M Refuse to Take Responsibility for Kingsland Workers 

2013-01-30 - CLEC


Corporate Social Deniability – Walmart and H&M Refuse to  Take Responsibility for Kingsland Workers

30 January, 2013 – Phnom Penh

The Community Legal Education Center (CLEC) and the Workers Information Center (WIC) are appalled at the response from international retail giants, Walmart and H&M, who refuse to accept any responsibility for the almost US$200,000 in lost wages and indemnity owed to former employees Kingsland Garment (Cambodia) Ltd.

Since September 2012, Kingsland workers have suffered through illegal factory suspensions and deductions of 50% of their salary. The situation escalated in January, 2013 when their Hong Kong employer fled and shuttered the doors of the factory leaving already impoverished, pregnant and elderly workers without legal payment of almost US$200,000.  

Despite commitments under their respective corporate social responsibility policies, the brand responses are as follows:

"Thank you for your inquiry. We have discussed this situation with our supplier and they advised us that the factory owners at Kingsland Garments ended their business relationship with our supplier in October 2011. We have paid in full for all merchandise."1 – Megan Murphy International Corporate Affairs Manager, Walmart, 25 January, 2013

"For Kingsland, it is not H&M factory, however we will do investigation and get back to you." – Local H&M representative, 15 January, 2013

 “Please note that Kingsland Garment Cambodia Ltd is not an approved supplier of H&M... The last H&M unauthorized production of garments in Kingsland was completed by July 2012. Also the concerned supplier has paid Kingsland factory the agreed cost of producing those garments in August 2012. The factory management first suspended the operation on 16 September which is much later than this unauthorized production of H&M taken place...While we have our full sympathy for the workers of Kingsland we believe that it is the responsibility of the owner of Kingsland to pay...Unfortunately as H&M does not have any business relation with this factory we are not in a position of exerting any pressure on the factory owner.” – Local H&M representative, 15 January, 2013

CLEC and WIC would like to make clear:

  • Walmart and H&M garments were amongst last lines of production and quality check at Kingsland Garment
  • prior to the illegal suspension (please see images of labels and garments removed from Kingsland Garment as
  • late as January, 2013); -Workers testify that Walmart production continued until the first week of September, 2012;
  • Workers testify that this Walmart underwear was packed into boxes marked “Saramax Apparel Group”;
  • Customs data confirms shipments from Kingsland Garment to Saramax for which the date of arrival in the
  • United States was 22 October, 2012 (please see Annex); -Workers testify that H&M alterations and quality checks continued until the first week of September, 2012;  -H&M Global CSR Coordinator, Mr. Lars Bergqvist, is aware of this and following a meeting local representatives
  • confirm the testimony of the workers; yet -Both Walmart and H&M refuse to accept any liability for the outstanding US$200,000 or the livelihood or well-being of workers confirmed as employees of their respective supply chains.   
  • Both Walmart and H&M, through their respective codes of conduct, purport to the world that they are socially responsible for all those that contribute to the successes of their brands. Their response is truly insulting to the marginalized workers of Kingsland Garment. Their contribution has included enduring poverty wages, forced labor, fainting and discrimination and violence against their union representatives.

Following their response, Walmart and H&M consumers and shareholders can not consider the following statements remotely plausible:

"All Suppliers and their manufacturing facilities, including all subcontracting and packaging facilities, will be held to these standards... Suppliers and their designated manufacturing facilities must fully comply with all applicable national and/or local laws and regulations... Suppliers must compensate all workers with wages, overtime premiums, and benefits that meet or exceed legal standards or collective agreements, whichever are higher." – Excerpts from Walmart Standards for Suppliers.2

"We have a responsibility towards everyone who contributes to our success....Applicable to all suppliers, their subcontractors and other business partners that do business with H&M...to ensure implementation in every factory and workplace that produces, finishes packs or otherwise handles goods or performs services for H&M...Our general rule is that all our suppliers and other business partners must, in all their activities, follow the national laws in the countries in which they operate." – Excerpts from H&M Code of Conduct.3

With the support of an extensive international network, we demand that Walmart and H&M ensure that all workers receive the full compensation to which they are legally entitled, including direct compensation if circumstances require it. 

For more information please contact: 

-Mr. Tola Moeun, Head of Labor Program, CLEC, +855 66 777 056
-Mr. Joel Preston, Consultant, CLEC, +855 66 777 037
-Ms. Sok Thareth, Coordinator Assistant, WIC, +855 81 63 9777 

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