Renewed Violence at VF Supplier Factory in Cambodia (E Garment)

To:WRC Affiliate Universities and Colleges
From:Scott Nova and Ben Hensler
Date:February 28, 2013
Re:Renewed Violence at VF Supplier Factory in Cambodia (E Garment)

This is an urgent update concerning new acts of violence against workers of the E Garment factory in Cambodia. E Garment, which has been disclosed by VF Corporation as a supplier of collegiate apparel to WRC affiliate universities, was the subject of a previous factory investigation report released by the WRC in December 2012. 

On February 21, thugs from a company-sponsored gangster union named the MKKU engaged in a violent and unprovoked attack on E Garment employees who are members of an independent trade union, the C.CAWDU, and members of that union’s staff – four of whom had to be hospitalized. This attack is just one of several incidents of violence committed this month against factory employees and the C.CAWDU at the direction of E Garment’s management. 

On February 6, local Cambodian police officers, acting at the company’s behest, attacked a group of workers who were protesting peacefully in front of the E Garment factory, injuring a pregnant employee whose current health status remains uncertain. Additional violent attacks on C.CAWDU members at E Garment that were directed by the company-sponsored gangster union occurred on February 27 and 28, resulting in the hospitalization of at least one more worker. 

A detailed update to WRC affiliate universities and colleges on these incidents and other developments at the E Garment factory since the release of our December 2012 report can be found here. In addition to VF Corporation, E Garment reportedly supplies apparel to Marks & Spencer, Bon-Ton Stores, Esprit, Dress Barn, Diesel, C&A, Reitmans (Canada), Matalan (UK), ID Group (France), and Gruppo Coin (Italy).

The February incidents are not the first acts of violence carried out against E Garment workers and the C.CAWDU by thugs from the company-sponsored union, MKKU (formerly, the VKYFTU), with the collusion of factory management, which has, itself, carried out a series of retaliatory acts against workers affiliated with the C.CAWDU. In our report released in December 2012, the WRC detailed a violent July 31, 2010 attack by VKYFTU thugs on E Garment employees who are members of the C.CAWDU – which occurred on the factory premises – and revealed evidence of active collusion by E Garment’s management in fabricating evidence to make this unprovoked assault appear to have been a “fight between two rival unions.”

The attacks this month appear to have been committed in retaliation for ongoing efforts by the C.CAWDU to gain reinstatement – through both adjudication and peaceful protest – for more than 40 E Garment employees who have been victims of discriminatory termination by E Garment on account of their membership in the C.CAWDU. As our December 2012 report discusses, E Garment has, since 2007, reneged on multiple agreements to reinstate workers it has discriminatorily dismissed, while continuing to target C.CAWDU members for retaliation. 

Since 2010, the WRC has sought the assistance of VF to correct the very serious violations of workers’ right to freedom of association under university codes of conduct which E Garment has committed. Following the release of our December 2012 report, VF responded by suggesting (inaccurately) that the situation had been resolved through Cambodia’s labor arbitration system. VF also informed the WRC, however, that – as E Garment’s parent company, the Hong Kong-based Yee Tung Group, is an FLA Participating Supplier company – the FLA was requesting a response from Yee Tung to our report.

Accordingly, the WRC has communicated with the FLA concerning the findings of our December report, and on Monday informed the FLA and VF of the most recent incident of violence. Thus far, the WRC has not received any further response from VF. 

The FLA has informed the WRC that it still has not received the response from Yee Tung Group that reportedly was due in January concerning our December report. The FLA has not yet responded to the WRC’s most recent communication to the FLA concerning last week’s violence.

The WRC encourages universities and colleges with licensing agreements with VF Corporation to contact that company to encourage a prompt and meaningful action in response to the ongoing violations of workers’ rights at E Garment and, in particular, the most recent acts of violence against factory employees and their union. The WRC also hopes that the FLA will take swift action with regard to E Garment’s parent company, FLA Participating Supplier Yee Tung Group, through its own mechanisms. For obvious reasons, action by all of the relevant parties should be undertaken with haste.   

The WRC continues to believe that only a comprehensive program of corrective action, such as is outlined in our December 2012 report, can prevent further violence against E Garment’s workers and restore their associational rights. These corrective measures are reiterated in our most recent update, as linked above.

Please feel free to contact me if you have questions concerning this very troubling case.

Scott Nova 
Worker Rights Consortium 
5 Thomas Circle NW, 5th Floor 
Washington DC 20005 
ph  202 387 4884 
fax 202 387 3292 
[email protected]