Cambodian workers producing garments for global retail giant Walmart say they are subjected to a slew of workplace abuses ranging from forced labour to sexual harassment.
Employees at numerous Walmart supplier factories across the country have made the allegations, which were compiled in a recent study exposing the brand’s “heinous abuses” in three of the major countries in its Asian supply chain – Cambodia, India and Indonesia.
The study into Walmart, which was published by workers rights groups Jobs with Justice Education Fund and Asia Floor Wage Alliance, accuses the mega-brand of using its “large and complex supply infrastructure … [to] conceal the exploitation”.
It states that the brand, which Forbes lists as the world’s largest retailer, fails to take any responsibility for abuses in its supply chain, where in Cambodia alone it is estimated to indirectly employ 45,000 people through its supplier factories.
Leaked export records obtained from a source in the transportation industry show that more than 13,500 tonnes of Walmart garments and footwear were exported from Sihanoukville Autonomous Port last year to countries including the US, Canada, France, Germany and the UK.
But despite its investment in Cambodia giving the brand “huge leverage” to improve working conditions, Walmart remains “right on the bottom” when it comes to protecting workers rights, according to Joel Preston, a consultant with the Community Legal Education Centre, which authored the Cambodia section of the report.
“We’ve seen some steps from other brands to try and remedy abuses … but Walmart’s commitment to labour rights in Cambodian factories is next to zero,” he said.
Varying complaints from workers suggest exploitation at Walmart supplier factories is extensive.
In all of the 14 factories included in the study, workers told CLEC that they were being “subjected to forced labour of at least one form”.
While an average working week in a Cambodian garment factory is advertised as eight hours per day, six days per week, 86 per cent of those who participated in the study “reported that their typical workday was 10 to 14 hours and that they did not have the option to leave the factory prior to overtime hours beginning”.