I much prefer stories like this: Problem identified, swift action, sensible company response, workers’ lot improved.
It is fiddlier but this kind of engagement creates a better result for everyone than a straightforward boycott or publicly lecturing the company.
Recently PUMA agreed that it would work to improve specific shortcomings in the Cambodian factory of its supplier Huey Yuen.
It first became apparent that there was a problem in April when over 100 of the factory’s employees were taken to hospital for fainting in a single day.
PUMA’s sourcing policy is quite clear about the company’s intention that its suppliers maintain labour standards but, as we have seen before, that is no guarantee that it happens at ground level. To the company’s credit, it was Puma who requested a full investigation, which was conducted by the monitoring group Fair Labor Association (FLA), of which Puma is a member.
The FLA in their report found numerous shortcomings that went well beyond the immediate cause of the fainting spells (poor ventilation). They found that excessive work hours and poor chemical handling/storage practices also contributed. While there, they also discovered other practices in breach of laws and standards:
- Counting sick leave as part of annual leave
- Not providing special leave
- Placing workers on rolling contracts rather than making them permanent employees
- Unexplained wage deductions
- Many other health and safety shortcomings, e.g. insufficient supply of drinking water, no fire evacuation plan and machinery lacking protective shielding.
- Meet the standards in PUMA’s Code of Conduct pertaining to health and safety, forced labour, compensation, grievances and minimum work age
- Ensure no one works more than 60 hours per week including overtime
- Develop an OH&S management plan
- Meet OH&S standards particularly those for handling and storage of chemicals, including provision of personal protective equipment