Updated: H&M Accused of Underpaying Cambodian Garment Workers

Is $61 a month enough to live on? Because that's minimum wage for garment workers in Cambodia.
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Is $61 a month enough to live on? Because that's minimum wage for garment workers in Cambodia.
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There's a lot of excitement right now about H&M's forthcoming collaboration with Maison Martin Margiela, but the company is coming under some scrutiny in its native Sweden this week.

Swedish TV documentary program Kalla Fakta accused the fast fashion retailer of not paying Cambodian garment workers a decent living wage, according to WWD. The miminum wage for these workers is currently $61 per month, which is less than 25% of what is considered a living wage.

H&M fired back at the program, saying in a statement that they are actually at the "forefront" of fighting for better minimum wages for workers in countries that manufacture its clothes. “We want a permanent change, negotiated between workers and employers," H&M said. "This should be done by collective agreement that all workers in a country could benefit from."

The Clean Clothes Campaign, a Netherlands-based labor union alliance, thinks H&M could do more. Trade unions in Cambodia have recently asked for the minimum wage to be raised to $131 per month, and they're looking for H&M's public support for the initiative. No word yet on what H&M's next steps will be. We've reached out to them for comment and will update when we hear back.

Even $131 a month seems absurdly low, but it's definitely a positive step that companies are being forced to have these dialogues.

UPDATE: H&M sent us a lengthy rebuttal to its detractors, stating that they are indeed working to get higher wages for Cambodian--and other low-paid workers--throughout the world. Per the release:

Our ambition is clearly set out in our Code of Conduct: “Everyone who works has the right to just and favourable remuneration ensuring for himself and his family an existence worthy of human dignity”. During our factory inspections we check that our suppliers are paying at least the statutory minimum wage, and our aim is therefore to influence the wage issue such that the minimum wage is increased to a level that represents a living wage.

They further note that they are launching a new initiative in 2013 to "strengthen the dialogue between factory management and workers so that they reach agreement by negotiation and agreements rather than through confrontation," in addition to working with the UN and its Better Factories program.