Gap to H&M Urge Talks to End Cambodian Workers’ Pay Clash

Apparel makers including Gap Inc., Hennes & Mauritz AB and Inditex SA called on Cambodia’s government, its garment industry and unions to hold talks after a strike over workers’ pay led to deadly clashes.

The government, the Garment Manufacturers Association in Cambodia and labor unions should engage in negotiations and support a new wage-review mechanism to avoid future violence, the retailers said in an open letter yesterday. Adidas AG, Puma SE, Levi Strauss & Co. and Columbia Sportswear Co. also signed the letter.

At least three people were killed when police used live ammunition to crush a protest by striking garment workers in Phnom Penh, the Cambodia Daily reported Jan. 3, citing the police. The protesters were part of a nationwide strike by garment workers demanding a doubling of the minimum wage to $160 a month, while the government offered $100.

“Our primary concerns are for the security and safety of the workers employed by our suppliers and the long-term stability of the Cambodian garment industry,” the companies said in the letter. “The only way to resolve this dispute is to cease all forms of violence, and for stakeholders to enter into good-faith negotiations.”

Crackdown Credited

Labor and industry officials credited the crackdown for ending the strike, allowing most factories to resume production, the Wall Street Journal reported Jan. 6. About 500,000 Cambodians are employed in the garment industry, the country’s biggest export earner.

Hennes & Mauritz said it remains committed to Cambodia as one of the Stockholm-based retailer’s key sourcing countries.

“As a key buyer in the Cambodian garment industry, we will continue to encourage all relevant parties to renew negotiations and to come to a mutually agreeable solution to this conflict,” Hennes & Mauritz said in an e-mailed statement.

Puma spokeswoman Kerstin Neuber declined to comment beyond yesterday’s letter, as did Adidas spokeswoman Katja Schreiber.