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Thursday, February 23, 2012

Puma officials go to Cambodia after factory shooting

FRANKFURT, Feb 23 (Reuters) - German sportwear maker Puma (Xetra: 696960 - news) sent officials to investigate working conditions in Cambodia after a local woman working for one of its suppliers was shot during a labour protest on Monday.

The woman, who was employed by Kaoway Sports, was shot during a protest by employees of several factories calling for better working conditions and increased pay.

Puma said it is paying for the medical costs of the woman, who is receiving treatment at a hospital in the Cambodian capital of Phnom Penh.

Puma said its safety directors in Asia were working with non-governmental organisations, other brands and trade unions to come up with ways to improve the safety and well-being of employees in its supplier factories.

"We are very aware that the working situation in Cambodia is problematic so that's why we're in the process of talking at an industry-wide level," a Puma spokeswoman told Reuters.

Garment exports were Cambodia's biggest currency earner last year. The sector employs more than 300,000 helping to feed thousands of families in a country where a third of the population live on $1 a day.

The industry generated $4.2 billion in exports last year but has been plagued by pay disputes, mass faintings and illness among workers, believed to be brought on by sweat-shop working conditions.

Puma said Kaoway had on Friday agreed to improve pay for its workers, offering them a $10 monthly transport subsidy and a daily subsidy of $0.50.

Two other young women working for Kaoway Sports were also injured on Monday, human rights organisations LICADHO and CLERC said.

A different Puma supplier in Cambodia was placed under investigation last year after a mass fainting. Other big brands that use Cambodian suppliers include H&M (Stockholm: HMB.ST - news) , Nike, Marks & Spencer (Dusseldorf: MA6.DU - news) , New Balance and Gap .

A panel of international and local judges earlier this month called on garment factories in Cambodia to urgently increase employees' salaries and pressed big international clothing brands to do more to improve working conditions. (Reporting by Victoria Bryan Editing by Maria Golovnina)

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