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Zara, Esprit Factory on the Hook for Unpaid Wages

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Cambodia wage negotiationsGarment workers in Cambodia gathered at the now defunct Co-Seek Garment factory in Phnom Penh seeking resolution for a months-long dispute over unpaid wages.

The group of 60 were among 400 people left without pay and answers when the Chinese-owned plant closed suddenly over the summer, The Cambodia Daily reports. In August the owners, who produced for brands like Zara, Esprit and Edwin, began removing equipment from the factory. A month later, the factory officially closed.

At the time, workers were offered $160, much less than the $250 to $800 they were owed. Some took the deal while others held out for their full amount and were left with nothing.

Now the courts are assessing the remaining factory equipment and property to determine if it could be sold to compensate workers.

Labor rights group Solidarity Center is also working on behalf of the workers, targeting Intidex, Zara’s parent company, along with other brands contracted with the factory. William Conklin, country director for the group in the U.S., will appeal to Intidex to uphold the commitments the company has made to worker’s rights groups.

Conklin says holding brands accountable can prove complicated given the nature of sourcing agreements. “Sometimes it’s not straightforward,” he told the paper. “Factories can be subcontracted, and buyers say they’re not their suppliers.”

The U.S. and EU are the biggest export markets for the Cambodian garment and footwear markets, which together were valued at $6.8 billion for 2015.

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