What Are Nike’s Factory Protests About?

A Nike Inc. (NYSE:NKE) factory in Kompong Speu, Cambodia reports that 70 percent of its employees have returned to work after protests were broken up by police yesterday.

As many as 300 people, not all of them employees, protested outside the factory yesterday to demand higher pay. After some damage to the property was caused, the strike was broken up by police, who arrested 7 workers outside the plant, according to the Associated Press.

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BBC has reported a much higher number of protestors, saying that “thousands of workers” were protesting outside the Nike factory. The news outlet went on to describe a bloody clash between workers, protestors, and police that resulted in damage to the factory and at least 20 officers being injured by “stones and sticks” that were thrown during the altercation.

Sabrina Garment Manufacturing Co., a Taiwanese company, employs about 3,500 workers, most of whom are women, at the plant. The company has said that it pays workers above minimum wage and has entered into talks with employees, the Labor Department, and the Garment Manufacturers of Cambodia, after protests began last week.

Nike released a statement last week about the protests, saying, “It is our understanding that this factory raised its own minimum wage on May 1 and pays above the country’s minimum wage.” The world’s largest sportswear company went on to say that workers were given additional bonuses for housing, transportation, food, and attendance.

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Recently concern has risen over labor standards in Asian garment factories, following the collapse of a garment factory in Bangladesh in April, which is considered to be one of the industry’s worst disasters. On May 20 a kiosk at a garment factory in Cambodia collapsed and injured at least 23 people.

Cambodia’s garment industry employs hundreds of thousands of people and is the country’s biggest export earner.

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