Cambodian union leader travels to Germany to address adidas' shareholders on behalf of unpaid workers

On Thursday, 16 May, adidas will inform its investors about last year's wins and losses at the Annual General Meeting. To ensure that shareholders get the full picture on this day, Sithyneth Ry, a Cambodian union president representing 500 unpaid workers in adidas' supply chain, will travel to Germany to inform investors about the workers' plight. Furthermore, activist investors will urge adidas to sign the Pay Your Workers - Respect Labour Rights agreement to ensure that workers are not left penniless during supply chain disruptions in the wake of the climate crisis.
Protest for the payment of Hulu Garment workers in the US

The Hulu Garment workers: hoodwinked in adidas' supply chain

During the Covid-19 pandemic, the workers of the Hulu Garment factory in Cambodia were sent home as work was temporarily suspended. At the end of the suspension period in April, workers were urged to "sign" their payslips for their suspension pay with their thumb print. Hidden under the payslip was a resignation notice. Through this trick workers lost their jobs and the severance payment they would have been owed had they been fired. Four years on, 500 former workers of the Hulu Garments factory continue to fight for the US$1 million in severance they would be legally owed if they had been fired. Sithyneth Ry, the president of the INTUFE union which represents the workers, will directly address the issue at the adidas investors during the shareholder meeting. He states: "Workers were left jobless and without the severance in the middle of a pandemic. They had been getting by on low wages for years and had no buffers to fall back on. This sudden unemployment without compensation meant they could no longer support their family, had to take out loans or sell their possessions."

Chhorpesal Chhom, one of the former Hulu workers who fell into further debt after she lost her job, said: "While working at the Hulu factory, I had been sending money to my mother regularly. Afterward, I didn’t have any income to send money to my family.”

Structural problems require systemic solutions

During the pandemic, many workers in adidas' and other brands' supply chains were faced with sudden factory closures, mass dismissals, and wage and severance theft. In the wake of the climate crisis, with flooding and heat waves further expected to disrupt supply chains, workers will continue to face sudden factory closures that leave them without their legally owed severance. It is up to major companies like adidas, which under the German Supply Chain Due Diligence Act is required to take appropriate preventive and remedial measures to reduce the risks of human rights violations in their supply chain, to prepare for these expected supply chain disruptions and related worker rights violations. This requires a structural approach as provided by the binding Pay Your Workers - Respect Labour Rights agreement, developed and endorsed by trade unions and labour rights organisations around the world. This binding agreement between brands and unions would set up a severance guarantee fund for workers to claim their legally owed compensations and a grievance mechanism related to workers' freedom to organise.

Adidas has refused to sign the agreement thus far despite repeated calls from unions and labour right groups to do so. This included an open letter by unions in May last year to dedicate a portion of the revenue from the sale of the tainted Yeezy shoes - after the breakup with rapper Ye - to paying for the agreement. In the meantime adidas seems set to pay out a dividend to shareholders despite losses in the past financial year.

“Adidas is prioritising shareholders at all costs, even if it has no money to remunerate them. While the much needed money to pay fair wages and severances to workers is apparently always missing!", says Mauro Meggiolaro, coordinator of Shareholders for Change, a European network of institutional investors dedicated to shareholder engagement.

Sithyneth Ry's speech at the AGM, together with the speeches of Clean Clothes Campaign, Shareholders for Change and the Dachverband kritische Aktionäre will ask attention for adidas' failure to address in the past and in the foreseeable future the problem of wage theft and severance theft in its supply chain. The speaker tour of Sithyneth Ry provides further opportunity for journalists and activists to gather information about issues in adidas' supply chain ahead of the major sports events in Europe this summer, including the EURO2024 men's football championship in Germany and the Olympic Games in France.

Speaker tour public events: 

15 May - Munich 19-21h

17 May - Fürth 19-21h

21 May - Berlin, 19-21h


Sithyneth Ry is the President of the Independent Trade Union Federation (INTUFE) in Cambodia, which he founded in 2017. INTUFE brings together 10 affiliate unions representing 3100 workers in the garment industry. Sithyneth worked in a garment factory in Phnom Penh from 1999 to 2001. 

Interview opportunities available, contact Christie Miedema,, +31 6 42060638, online & in person in Nuremberg/Fürth - 17 May - and in Berlin - 21 May.


-Interventions at the adidas AGM:

-More information about the Hulu Garment case:

-More information about the PayYourWorkers campaign and the pressure on adidas: and

published 2024-05-14