Despite Denials, Levi’s Still Producing at SL Garment Factory

U.S. denim giant Levi Strauss continued to deny this week that its products are linked to the strife-torn SL Garment Factory in Phnom Penh, despite new photographs showing Levi’s trademark jeans stacked on benches at the plant in Meanchey district.

The Singaporean-owned factory, which also produces clothing for U.S. brand Gap and Swedish retail giant H&M, has seen ongoing protests since early August. Last week, one woman was shot dead by police gunfire and several people injured during clashes between authorities and SL protesters.

In late September, a Levi Strauss representative announced that SL was no longer producing jeans for the company, though no specific reason was cited for the severing of ties with the garment producer.

Yet a visit to the SL factory on Friday revealed that workers were still working on piles of denim pants with the familiar red-and-white Levi’s label sewn onto its back pocket and inside waistband.

Joseph Kee Leung Lee, SL’s director, said on Sunday that despite Levi Strauss’ public claims that it had severed ties with his factory, the company had not stopped sourcing from SL.

“We are still making Levi Strauss. We have never not made Levi Strauss,” Mr. Lee said.

“Actually, all the big brands are helping us…. [Levi’s] never, never stopped. Everybody knows [the strikes are] not our fault.”

Despite being sent a photograph of stacks of Levi’s jeans at the SL factory, Clara So, director of corporate affairs for Levi Strauss in the Asia-Pacific region, insisted Tuesday that SL was no longer producing any garments for the company.

“The reply that I gave earlier is a statement of fact. It is the fact that Levi Strauss & Co. is no longer sourcing from SL Garment Processing,” Ms. So said in an email.

“Levi Strauss & Co. production formerly sourced from SL was placed with other suppliers in Cambodia,” she said.

Ms. So did not hazard a guess as to how SL factory staff were still working on Levi’s jeans at the SL factory last week.

Nuon Piseth, a 32-year-old worker at SL, said the Levi Strauss products at the SL factory had been sent there by another factory, GDM Enterprise Co. Ltd.

“The Levi’s that we have seen in the factory have been brought in by GDM factory for laundry,” Mr. Piseth said.

Ath Thorn, director of the Coalition of Cambodian Apparel Workers Democratic Union, which has been at the center of the SL factory protest, said Levi Strauss’ denials did not absolve them of responsibility for the situation at the factory.

“Levi’s also has corporate social responsibility, and we still are pushing buyers to care about this case,” Mr. Thorn said.

“So even though Levi’s is sourcing or not sourcing, they should still respond to their workers.”

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