This week a police unit reportedly injured at least 23 workers outside a Cambodia Garment factory which produces apparel for Nike. The Guardian newspaper writes that police intervened after some 3,000 mostly female workers protested against payment conditions at their workplace. The local workforce in Cambodia have become increasingly sensitive about working conditions in the country, notably after parts of two factories collapsed earlier this month. One of these production plants where two workers were killed manufactures running shoes for Asics. At the Nike plant, the employees are calling for an extra payment of $14 per month for healthcare, transport and housing in addition to the minimum wage of $74 a month. The situation in the Cambodian factories has become highly critical over the past few weeks due to a growing number of strikes around the country. The southeast Asian nation depends heavily on exports of garments which – according to the International Monetary Fund – account for some 75 percent of Cambodia’s total exports which reached a volume of more than $5.2 billion in 2011.

After more than 1,100 workers died in a Bangladesh factory collapse in April, the situation in Asia’s factories can no longer be simply explained away as a tragic individual case. In Cambodia the whole matter is creating social turmoil. This is due to casualties from cheap factory buildings and a system with questionable working conditions where workers feel underpaid. Depending on media interest in such issues and consumer awareness in Western countries, sporting goods brands may have to consider solutions which are more sustainable than just paying out indemnities to polish their image. The whole dilemma calls for enhanced efforts on sustainability and transparency and ultimately money to improve the circumstances under which their products are actually manufactured.

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