Remediation of Illegal Firing and Discrimination at Lululemon Collegiate Supplier in Cambodia

To:WRC Affiliate Universities and Colleges
From:Bent Gehrt and Rola Abimourched
Date:May 6, 2024
Re:Remediation of Illegal Firing and Discrimination at Lululemon Collegiate Supplier in Cambodia

Please find here a new report on the WRC’s investigation and successful remediation of labor rights violations at the Quantum Apparel factory in Phnom Penh, Cambodia. The WRC investigated and, with the assistance of the university licensee, Lululemon, secured corrective actions to address violations of university codes of conduct at the factory, including retaliatory firing of and other discrimination against several workers for exercising associational rights.

Quantum Apparel is owned and operated by the Sri Lankan manufacturing conglomerate, Brandix/Inqube. Quantum Apparel is disclosed by Lululemon as among its suppliers of collegiate-licensed accessories, and it is subject to the labor codes of conduct of universities and colleges affiliated with the WRC.

At the end of April 2023, Quantum Apparel workers established an independent union to address workers’ complaints concerning the company’s misuse of short-term contracts at the factory. However, as the WRC’s investigation documented, as soon as workers notified factory management that they were forming a union, Quantum Apparel began retaliating against the workers who were the newly elected leaders of this union.

These violations included the following unlawful actions:  

  • Retaliatory firing of the worker who is the newly elected union president; 
  • Retaliatory job transfers and shortening the duration of the employment contract of the worker who is the union’s secretary; and 
  • Retaliatory shortening of the duration of the employment contract of the worker who is the union’s vice president.

The WRC shared findings and recommendations for remediation regarding the violations with the factory owner, Inqube, and the university licensee, Lululemon. Lululemon—to its credit—quickly took action after receiving the WRC’s findings and recommendations for remediation and communicated to Inqube the necessity of addressing the violations.

After engagement by the WRC and Lululemon, Quantum Apparel committed to reinstate the worker union leader who had been fired, with full back pay from the date of their termination to their reinstatement. The worker was reinstated on October 18, 2023, and received US$648, which is equivalent to three months’ wages. In addition, Quantum Apparel provided long-term employment contracts to this worker and the other employee union leaders, and the company has refrained from further discrimination against workers who join the union.

After Quantum Apparel took these remedial actions, the environment in the factory for the exercise of associational rights has improved. As evidence of this, since the worker union president was reinstated, more than 60 other workers at the factory have joined the new union. The WRC finds, therefore, that the violations of university and brand codes of conduct discussed in this report have been substantially remedied.

This successful outcome was achieved as a result of Lululemon’s cooperation with the WRC and its engagement with factory management in response to the WRC’s investigation. The WRC will continue to monitor labor practices at Quantum Apparel. As always, please let us know if you have any questions or concerns.