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19 Oct 2020

Andrea Nierhoff, ABC

Cambodia: Australian MP writes a letter to Nike urging for settlement of workers' claims with its suppliers

"Cambodian garment factory workers demand rights after coronavirus closures", 16 October 2020

Ung Chanthoeun has spent the past 17 years on a hot factory floor in Cambodia, sewing, ironing, and painstakingly checking the labels on clothes for big brands worldwide.

But with the pandemic leading to a worldwide downturn in production demand, the factory, Violet Apparel, announced it was closing its doors … — with one day's notice.

"When I heard that Violet closed, I felt like I lost everything I ever thought possible," Ms Chanthoeun told the ABC.

... Under Cambodian law, employers are required to give workers a dismissal notice proportionate to how long they were employed…

According to union activists, Violet initially agreed to pay in full, but then reneged, saying it would only give compensation for this period to those employed on permanent contracts…

Photographs taken by workers inside Violet and provided to labour rights advocates show order forms and thread lists for Nike products, as well as a list of products purportedly produced by Violet for another factory, Olive Apparel. 

In a statement provided …, Nike said it hasn't sourced from Violet since 2006, and the factory "is not authorised to produce Nike product". But Olive Apparel is one of Nike's suppliers, according to the brand's online manufacturing map…

The pandemic has seen a crackdown on freedom of expression and rights in South-East Asia.

... Federal Labor MP Julian Hill, who has many constituents with Cambodian heritage and who has advocated on labour rights issues previously, wrote a letter to Nike, calling on them to help settle the workers' claims…

"I think that Australia can and must do more to speak up in support of our values in the region, and at times that may be uncomfortable, but that does mean that we speak up in favour of peace and democracy and proper labour standards," he said…

Part of the following timelines

Cambodia: Garment workers protest unpaid wages as COVID-19 disrupts supply chains

Cambodia: 1,200 former Violet Apparel workers demand US$1.4 million unpaid compensation and damages after factory closure; Incl. responses from intl. fashion brands