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17 Apr 2020

David Pierson, Los Angeles Times

Cambodia: U.S brands cancel orders from their suppliers due to ongoing consequences of the Covid-19 pandemic; while workers struggle to support their livelihoods

"New clothes pile up at Cambodian factories. Coronavirus forces U.S. brands to cancel orders", 15 April 2020

T-shirts, skirts and shorts are piling up at the clothing factories ringing the Cambodian capital of Phnom Penh.

Once destined for American and European stores, the spring and summer collections are casualties of the economic contagion that’s trailed the spread of the coronavirus, resulting last month in the biggest decline in U.S. retail sales on record.

Brands such as Gap and Old Navy can no longer sell the clothing and have canceled orders. That’s left factory owners and workers unpaid in an industry with little financial cushion to endure weeks without business.

“We only get paid when the clothes are delivered,” said Ken Loo, secretary-general of the Garment Manufacturers Assn. in Cambodia. “We have zero income and zero cash flow…

That’s given workers like San Sopha steady employment for two decades. But the mother of two is being furloughed …, her $250 monthly salary reduced to a $70 monthly payment mandated by the government,… That won’t cover the $90 she pays each month for her microfinance loan, …

“Social distancing is almost impossible,” said Yang Sophorn, president of the Cambodian Alliance of Trade Unions. “From one [sewing] machine to another, there is less than half a meter in between. They sit close to each other. Their risk is very high. If someone contracted the disease, it will spread very fast.”

… The American Apparel & Footwear Assn. urged governments and banks to assist in keeping supply chains solvent and suggested other measures such as deferring tariff payments…