A wage protest at a Nike apparel factory in Cambodia ended violently Monday as police using stun batons moved in, injuring 23 workers. Around 3,000 workers, mostly women, had blocked the road outside their factory west of the capital Phnom Penh.
The workers had been protesting since last Tuesday, according to Sun Vanny, president of the Free Trade Union. They want the company to give them $14 a month to defer transportation, rent, and health costs. The factory employs around 5,000 people, and the current minimum wage is $74 a month.
A Nike spokeswoman in the United States told the New York Times that the company was concerned about the allegations and was conducting an investigation. Nike policy supports worker’s right to freedom of association.
The incident comes during a bad month for the garment industry. Council of Fashion Designers of America president Diane von Fursten sent a letter to the CFDA membership, encouraging designers to download her own company’s Supplier Code of Conduct rules and Supplier Certification Document.
She wrote, “What happened in Bangladesh is a tragedy and a harsh reminder that it is our obligation as designers to make sure our factories are a safe place to work and that the workers are respected.”
A partial factory collapse earlier in May killed two workers and injured 11 others. Last week, a resting area for workers collapsed into a pond at a Top World Garment factory in Phnom Penh, sending 20 workers to the hospital.
A mass fainting struck last Monday at Wing Star Shoes Co. Ltd., the same factory that suffered the partial collapse. Between 10 and 30 workers fainted following trauma from an electrical short circuit at the factory.
Labor advocates were shocked that the factory reopened so soon after the disaster. The faintings were blamed on trauma and fear following the collapse. There was no evidence that the facilities had been inspected since the collapse.
The continued incidents demonstrate that safety problems in the garment industry are not restricted to one nation or one factory. A lack of rules and inspection throughout the global supply chain continues to expose workers to risky conditions and creates potentially damaging publicity for global companies.