Cambodian Garment Workers On Strike for a Living Wage
Around 68,000 garment-factory workers in Cambodia have started a week-long strike to demand a wage of US$ 93. They say that a recently-established minimum wage of US$ 61 fails to cover basic living expenses and does not meet living wage standards.
The Coalition of Cambodian Apparel Workers Democratic Union (CCAWDU) and National Independent Federation Textile Union of Cambodia (NIFTUC), with with around 75,000 members are calling upon the Cambodian employers association to enter into negotiations.
In the run-up to the strike, there have been numerous incidents of violence, threats and intimidation against union members. Government officials as well as employers have threatened union leaders with criminal charges and imprisonment. Says Mr. Ath Thorn, President of the Cambodia Labour Confederation (CLC): “The right to strike and collective bargaining is well established in Cambodian law as well as in international human-rights law. We call upon the government, employers and international brands to respect these rights and pay Cambodian workers a living wage”.
The Clean Clothes Campaign (CCC), an international labour-rights network, has contacted major international buyers to step up their ethical programmes to ensure that workers receive a living wage. “Garment workers earning the minimum wage live in dire poverty, often barely able to buy healthy and nutritious meals” says Mr. Jeroen Merk (CCC). “The need for action is highlighted by the fact that in August hundreds of garment workers fainted in Cambodia as a result of malnutrition”.
The CCC has also expressed their concern about the safety of workers in exercising trade union activities. In recent months, requests for public meetings and demonstrations have been refused by Cambodian authorities. According to Ms. Ineke Zeldenrust (CCC), “the Police forcibly stopped workers from attending rallies, while government officials and employers have threatened union leaders with criminal charges and imprisonment. The Cambodian government and employers association should immediately cease any interference with, threats against and intimidation of trade unionists”.
For over a decade many brands and retailers have considered Cambodia a "safe haven" from reputation risk due to an ongoing factory monitoring program. Many workers have benefited from this project, but the problem of insufficient wages to meet basic needs is yet to be resolved. The CCC encourages buyers to continue sourcing from Cambodia and ensure that all workers in their supply chain receive living wages. The CCC also calls upon key brands sourcing from Cambodia to immediately contact their suppliers and the employers association and encourage them to enter into good-faith negotiations with CCAWDU and NIFTUC.
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