Date of publication: January 9, 2014
Source: Press Release
Author: CCC, ILRF, WRC, MSN, USAS, International Union League for Brand Responsibility, Workers United (SEIU), Framtiden i våre hender, and CNV Internationaal
Groups call on global clothing brands to use their influence to achieve an end to repression against workers involved in wage protests and the resumption of good-faith wage negotiations.
Labour rights groups and trade unions across the world are expressing outrage at the brutal violence and repression in Cambodia following demonstrations by garment and footwear workers calling for a raise in the minimum wage.
The groups, including Clean Clothes Campaign, International Labor Rights Forum, Worker Rights Consortium, Maquila Solidarity Network, United Students Against Sweatshops, International Union League for Brand Responsibility, Workers United, SEIU, Framtiden i våre hender, and CNV Internationaal, The Netherlands, are calling on global clothing brands to take immediate action and contact the Cambodian government demanding:
Violence against garment workers began after Cambodian unions called a national strike on December 24, 2013. Workers were demanding an increase in the minimum wage to USD 160 per month. As protests continued, the police and military responded with violence on January 2 and 3, killing at least 4 people and injuring almost 40.
Seven brands sent an open letter to the Government of Cambodia on January 7 expressing their concerns over the recent violence. It is commendable that these brands are willing to speak up and appalling that so many others have remained silent in the face of such blatant human rights violations in their sector. The letter did not go far enough however, in denouncing the reprehensible conduct of the Garment Manufacturers Association in Cambodia, which has condoned the government’s use of deadly force against striking workers. As poverty wages are at the root of the demonstrations, global clothing brands must also recognise the role they play and take immediate action including:
“Whilst our primary concern is the safety and well-being of those workers who have been detained, we are also calling on brands to look at the long-term implications of their purchasing practices.” said Jeroen Merk of the Clean Clothes Campaign. “Until brands recognise that these practices contribute to the poverty wages received by workers in Cambodia, and in turn the demonstrations we are witnessing, then no brand sourcing from Cambodia can claim to be acting fairly or decently.”
Cambodia’s garment industry employs over 500,000 people, is responsible for around 95% of Cambodia’s export industry and is worth €3.38 billion a year. The minimum wage falls a long way short of a living wage, and the poverty wages workers receive contribute to shocking levels of malnutrition amongst the mainly young female workforce.
“These latest horrific developments demonstrate why authorities can no longer afford to ignore the social problems and poor living conditions facing workers in Cambodia today,” said Tola Meoun, Head of Labor Programmes for the Cambodian NGO Community Legal Education Centre.
On Friday, January 10th, actions will take place at embassies and other locations around the world in a day of solidarity with Cambodian workers. As part of this day of action campaigners will call on the government of Cambodia to release those detained in the protests and resume minimum wage negotiations.
Regular updates on the developing situation in Cambodia can be found from the following:
Visit the ILRF website: http://www.laborrights.org/