It is not a good week for fast fashion. The Department of Labor filed a lawsuit against Forever 21 and now H&M is under fire following the debut of Kalla Fakta, a Swedish TV program, alleging that H&M does not provide adequate wages for the workers employed in their Cambodian factories. In particular, the factory workers at issue are only paid 3 kronor ($0.45) per hour and have suffered from mass fainting due to overcrowding and poor factory conditions.
As part of the program, which aired this past week, H&M CEO Karl-Johan Persson argues the situation in Cambodia would be much worse if the company was not present in the country. However, another clip features Deuar Sophon, a mother of three children, who works over 70 hours a week at a Cambodia textile factory which manufactures clothes for H&M, and is plagued by worry about how she will support her family.
In response to the program's debut, Hennes & Mauritz AB (aka H&M) is disputing the claims, saying in a statement that it is at the “forefront” of the fight for better minimum wages for workers in countries that manufacture its clothes. The company's CEO also argues: “We invited TV4 to the factory, so it’s not correct to say that we tried to prevent the team from visiting. On the contrary, it was us who helped TV4 to gain access to the factory."
Regardless, the fact is that fast fashion comes a very high price, and as we have mentioned many times, if the consumer is not paying a reasonable price of garments, someone else is paying for the difference, and it is usually laborers. “Low wages come at a high cost. Last year, over 2400 workers passed out in Cambodian factories due to malnutrition as a direct consequence of low salaries. But H&M, one of Cambodia's main buyers, continues to refuse to pay a living wage to its workers,” says Jeroen Merk of the International Clean Clothes Campaign. Give this some thought before shopping fast fashion.