Leading rights groups call on Nike to push its supplier Ramatex to remediate supply chain abuses in Cambodia

58 leading labour and human rights groups are demanding sportswear giant Nike end its standoff with Thai and Cambodian garment workers to finally fulfill its human rights commitments and pay its supply chain workers the $2.2 million in unpaid wages and benefits they have been waiting for since 2020. The workers of the Violet Apparel factory, owned by Nike’s primary manufacturing partner, the multi-million dollar conglomerate Ramatex Group, were denied $1.4 million in legal benefits since the Violet Apparel factory closed in 2020.
Former Violet Apparel workers calling on Nike and Ramatex to pay up on Labour Day 2023

The statement comes shortly after the Worker Rights Consortium (WRC) issued a report which leaves no doubt about who is responsible for ensuring 1,284 Cambodian workers receive the terminal compensation they are legally owed: Nike and its major supplier, the Ramatex Group.

Nike has hypocritically justified Ramatex’s continued refusal to pay workers by hiding behind a legally invalid ruling against the Violet Apparel workers by Cambodia’s Arbitration Council, even as Nike joined with other major brands in 2018 and 2019 to directly raise concerns with the Cambodian Government about the diminishing independence of the Arbitration Council and threats to labour rights in the country. Human Rights Watch cited the biased Arbitration Council outcome as demonstrative of the “politically compromised Arbitration Council”, and the WRC has detailed how the excuse used by Ramatex to dismiss workers without paying them full benefits was bogus.

Worse still, Nike is shamelessly denying the conclusive evidence that its goods were produced at Violet Apparel for years, in spite of receiving photos of Nike goods being made in the factory, including of Nike thread lists, labels, and internal documents as well as consistent, credible testimony from all workers that they produced Nike goods for years. This case does not stand alone. Nike is also defending the factory's behaviour in the Hong Seng Knitting factory in Thailand, where it is insisting that workers voluntarily donated their legally owed wages to their employer during the pandemic, even though workers protested and reported the wage theft to the police. Nike has positioned itself as rights-abusing outlier in the industry, acting against its human rights commitments and its own code of conduct - this is why a groundswell of human rights and labour rights organisations from around the world have come together to say enough is enough.

“The WRC report shows what we knew already: Ramatex and its biggest buyer Nike must ensure these workers are finally compensated. There is no legal ground that justifies their inaction and they cannot appeal to a flawed institution for protection”, said Yang Sophorn, president of the Cambodian Alliance of Trade Union (CATU).

“Ramatex Group not only has the legal obligation to compensate the workers, they and their biggest buyer Nike have the financial means to do so. Companies sourcing from countries like Cambodia should stop benefiting from a strong labour law on paper being so poorly enforced, leaving their workers without social protection. And let’s not forget they tried to get away with this during a pandemic”, said Niki Gamara, Clean Clothes Campaign’s South East Asia Urgent Appeals Coordinator.

One of the wronged former Violet Apparel workers, a mother to two children, said: “The employer calculated that my severance was around 500USD, but according to my rough calculation my severance should be around 5000-6000USD, because I have worked at this factory for a very long time. Since the factory has closed I don’t have money to buy milk for my children. I have to borrow money from my relatives to buy milk.”

Read the full statement here.

Find out more on nikesteals.com/ramatex.

published 2023-07-20