It’s not shocking to hear that Cambodian garment workers, who assemble many of the fast fashion items hanging in our closets, don’t work under the best conditions. But it is always disheartening to hear just how deplorable these conditions are with no signs of improvement.
A new study done by the Human Rights Watch reveals that the problems in these factories are not only morally reprehensible, but also illegal. Pregnant workers are fired. Workers who are visibly sick and need to take time off are often fired, even if they come with a doctor’s note. Forced overtime is typical, with threats of being fired, decreasing pay or putting the employee on a piece-by-piece pay rate if he or she dares to refuse the extra hours. Daily quotas, which get increasingly higher, are employed as an excuse to keep workers from using the bathroom or taking lunch breaks during the day. Workers are often bribed with extra money to hit a certain target, but are not compensated when they actually complete the work.
There is also a lot of funny business with contracts and plenty of anti-union activity, including bribing elected union leaders to leave their posts in exchange for higher pay. The labor laws put in place to protect the workers are often barely followed. “To date, Cambodia’s labor inspectorate has been wholly ineffectual, and the subject of numerous corruption allegations,” the report states.
The document provides a list of ways Cambodia and its factories can improve the situation for employees, which as of now can only be compared to slave labor. Many of these offenses are in conflict with labor laws, indicating a lack of accountability from both the factory and the government.
You can read the entire eye-opening report over at Human Rights Watch.