WRC Prevents Illegal Mass Firing of Factory Workers in Cambodia

To:WRC Affiliate Universities and Colleges
From:Scott Nova
Date:January 29, 2018
Re:WRC Prevents Illegal Mass Firing of Factory Workers in Cambodia

Please find here a new report concerning the WRC’s investigation and successful remediation, in August-September 2017, of violations of university codes of conduct at Horizon Outdoor, a factory in Cambodia that, at the time, was disclosed as a supplier of collegiate licensed products to VF Corporation’s JanSport brand. Although VF, last year, sold its licensed sports products division to Fanatics, Inc., VF remains the sole buyer from Horizon Outdoor, which continues to manufacture non-collegiate products for VF brands such as Vans, Eastpak, and The Northface.

As detailed in this new report, the WRC, working in collaboration with VF, successfully reversed an attempt by the factory management to retaliatorily discharge more than 50 of the facility’s employees. Last August, the WRC received a complaint that Horizon Outdoor had terminated an employee who was a democratically elected officer of a union that workers at the factory had recently formed in order to improve their labor conditions. Employees also reported that Horizon Outdoor had just announced its intention to terminate 50 other workers at the factory, including five other employees who were leaders of the newly-established union.

The WRC’s investigation found that Horizon Outdoor’s termination of the worker who was the union officer violated Cambodian law and international labor standards (and, thereby, university codes of conduct as well) – as did the threatened terminations of 50 other workers announced by the company. The WRC met with local VF representatives in Cambodia and the factory management, and recommended that Horizon Outdoor reinstate the employee union officer to his former position at the factory and pay him back wages, and rescind its announcement of the pending terminations of the 50 other employees.

To their credit, Horizon Outdoor and VF responded promptly and positively to the WRC’s recommendations. In early October, the factory not only reinstated the dismissed employee with full back pay, but also withdrew its plan to terminate the 50 other workers.

The constructive approach that VF displayed here and in other recent cases where the WRC has identified labor rights problems at its supplier factories are a direct result, in substantial part, of ongoing engagement with the company by the university community over the past several years. The WRC hopes that, based on our continuing dialogue with VF concerning labor rights issues in its supply chains for its non-collegiate brands, that this collaboration will be sustained even though the company is no longer a university licensee.

If you have any questions or concerns about today’s report, please do not hesitate to contact us. Thank you very much.

Scott Nova
Executive Director
Worker Rights Consortium