Global unions unite to back Cambodian garment workers’ action day
Photo Source: IndustriALL/Nick Axelrod
Three global unions, representing millions of workers around the world, are mobilizing to back Cambodian garment unions’ demands for higher wages.
IndustriALL Global Union, UNI Global Union and the International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC) are joining Cambodian garment workers in a day of action on 17 September calling for a rise in the minimum wage from US$100 to US$177.
In early October, the Labour Advisory Committee (LAC) in Cambodia is set to announce a new minimum wage for workers in the garment, textile and footwear industry, which generates US$5 billion in revenue for the country.
At this critical juncture, IndustriALL, the ITUC and UNI are asking affiliates to take part in the global day of action by organizing protests outside Cambodian embassies and present a letter to the ambassador. Affiliates are also being asked to send letters directly to the Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen.
Jyrki Raina, general secretary of IndustriALL, said: “The global day of action on 17 September will be a sharp reminder that the world is watching as Cambodia sets a new minimum wage. Cambodia is an important sourcing country to the fashion industry and yet pitiful wages mean that garment workers live in poverty and are forced to work exhausting hours to survive. We urge the Cambodian government to listen to workers’ demands for a peaceful path to a just wage - or seriously risk jeopardizing brands’ confidence in the country as a sourcing partner.”
A coalition of garment unions, including IndustriALL affiliates, agreed on the figure of US$177 based on a study commissioned by the Cambodian government for the LAC. The study found that the minimum wage should be between $157 and $177 dollars a month. This number is also close to the amount had the original minimum wage for the sector been adjusted for inflation over time – around $170.
Philip Jennings, General Secretary of UNI Global Union said: “Cambodia has a choice, either to take the high road to becoming a sustainable, ethical, fair play industry or the low road that leads to the bottom. The eyes of everyone from consumers to brands are on Cambodia. Cambodia do the right thing and raise the minimum wage to US$177.”
Sharan Burrow, General Secretary of the International Trade Union Confederation, further explained: “The impoverishment of workers in supply chains is a global scandal. In Cambodia, garment workers’ labour supports a multi-billion dollar industry, while wages are insufficient to cover basic expenses, including adequate food and shelter for themselves and their families. Cambodia will simply not move forward if the economic strategy is to continue to rely on a poverty wage system. We strongly support the unions’ call for a living wage and urge the government to act now.”
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