While billions of people are cheering on their favourite teams during the Women’s World Cup, Nike – sponsor of thirteen of the teams – refuses to pay 1,284 Cambodian garment workers US$1.4 million in legally owed severance pay.
Global women's rights organisation, ActionAid Australia, alongside the Manufacturing Division of the CFMEU and the garment workers they represent, are calling on Nike to pay their workers by the end of tournament.
In July 2020, 1,284 women garment workers at the Violet Apparel Factory in Phnom Penh, Cambodia were let go when the factory abruptly closed during the COVID pandemic. They are owed unpaid severance compensation, yet they were making products for one of the richest brands in the world: Nike.
“Nike makes the amount that it owes women garment workers in under 15 minutes. For Nike the amount owed is mere pennies, but for the women who are struggling to put food on the table and have been forced to take on debt since the factory closed, the money owed would be life changing. It is simple: by refusing to pay workers in their supply chain, Nike is contributing to wage theft,” said Michelle Higelin, Executive Director of ActionAid Australia.
“Nike positions itself as a champion of women’s empowerment, but it is ignoring the women who’ve driven its profits. This Women’s World Cup, ActionAid is appealing to players with close ties to Nike to raise this case and help end the three-year fight for wages that women garment workers are owed.”
The Matildas and the USA recently showed the power of standing together for a fair deal when they collectively bargained for equal pay. Cambodian women garment workers are doing the same.
“Many of the women we’re watching on the field know what it’s like to stand together to win equal and fair wages. We commend these players for the strong and inspiring stance they’ve taken for gender equality, and we hope when they hear about the plight of Cambodian women garment workers, they’ll act together to urge Nike to do what’s right,” said Michelle Higelin.
"No worker should suffer exploitation in the name of fashion. We call on Nike to pay the unpaid wages and compensation to the workers who made their garments now.” said Jenny Kruschel, the Textile, Clothing and Footwear (TCF) National Secretary Manufacturing Division CFMEU.
“All Brands and Manufacturers should be held accountable for their supply chains. When we buy a garment, we should know the name and location of the factory that made that garment, have confidence that all workers can work in a safe workplace, be treated respect, and receive a living wage. Workers must have the right to organise and join a union,” said Jenny Kruschel.
On Sunday 6 August, ActionAid activists, and trade union members gathered outside Federation Square during the Sweden vs USA match to demand Nike pay their workers. Photos and video footage of the action can be found here:
For more information and interviews with ActionAid spokespeople, please contact: Tim Brunero, 0405 285 547 / firstname.lastname@example.org
Note to Editor
The Violet Apparel factory in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, was owned by Singaporean and Malaysian garment manufacturing conglomerate the Ramatex Group. The factory closed with less than one week’s notice on 1 July 2020 and all of the workers lost their jobs. The workers are legally entitled to an estimated US$1.4 million in terminal compensation and have been denied this for over three years. According to testimony from factory workers, corroborated by photographs taken inside the factory before its closure and by company records and other documentary evidence, Violet Apparel manufactured Nike-branded clothing until 2020. Nike has considerable and ongoing influence with Ramatex as a key buyer and leading global brand – it has sourced globally from 14 different Ramatex factories and has had an ongoing business relationship with Ramatex since at least 2005.
About ActionAid Australia
ActionAid is a global women’s rights organisation working in 45 countries across the world. We want to see a just, fair, and sustainable world, in which all women enjoy the right to a life of dignity, and freedom from poverty, injustice and oppression. We work to achieve gender equality and to eradicate poverty.