News / Asia

    Brands, International Unions Press Cambodian Government on Labor Issues

    Garment workers present creations during the "Fashion Show of the Beautiful Clothes, Ugly Reality made by us in Cambodia" in Phnom Penh, May 25, 2014.
    Garment workers present creations during the "Fashion Show of the Beautiful Clothes, Ugly Reality made by us in Cambodia" in Phnom Penh, May 25, 2014.
    Robert Carmichael
    Representatives from some of the world’s largest fashion brands and the leader of one of the world’s biggest union organizations met this week with Cambodian officials and local clothing manufacturers to demand better treatment and improve workplace safety for the country's estimated 600,000 garment workers. 

    Garment manufacturing is Cambodia’s main foreign exchange earner, with $5.5 billion in exports last year, mainly to the United States and the European Union.

    But while revenues have risen in a decade, real wages have declined.  Last year, workers fed up with having to work ever-longer hours just to get by clocked nearly 900,000 strike days, mostly in an effort to raise the minimum wage.

    In December, the government hiked the minimum wage from $80 to $100 a month, but some unions and many workers wanted $160.  As a result, thousands stayed on strike.
     
    Cambodian garment workers run as they escape for safety in front of a factory of Yak Jin in Kambol village on the outskirts of Phnom Penh, Cambodia, Thursday, Jan. 2, 2014.Cambodian garment workers run as they escape for safety in front of a factory of Yak Jin in Kambol village on the outskirts of Phnom Penh, Cambodia, Thursday, Jan. 2, 2014.
    x
    Cambodian garment workers run as they escape for safety in front of a factory of Yak Jin in Kambol village on the outskirts of Phnom Penh, Cambodia, Thursday, Jan. 2, 2014.
    Cambodian garment workers run as they escape for safety in front of a factory of Yak Jin in Kambol village on the outskirts of Phnom Penh, Cambodia, Thursday, Jan. 2, 2014.
    In early January, four workers were killed and 23 arrested during the protests.  The killings made international headlines and proved a public relations problem for brands such as H&M, The Gap, Puma and Walmart.

    The IndustriALL Global Union is an organization of international unions with 50 million members in 140 countries.  Its general secretary, Jyrki Raina says the $100 minimum wage is the key issue.

    “It is not a living wage.  And that is why people work 10-14 hours a day.  It is very important to find a path now towards a living wage that covers the basic needs and makes it possible for people to have a life,” he said.

    Raina, who attended this week’s meetings between brands, government, and local manufacturers, says brands delivered three key messages to the government; that they are willing to pay their subcontractors more to ensure workers receive a higher minimum wage, that the government must work faster to set up a mechanism that reviews the minimum wage on a regular basis and in a realistic manner, and that it stops using violence and the courts against workers and unions.

    "The brands are very dependent on their image," he said.  "Consumers are asking questions, and it is not good news for sales or reputation if the media reports, as they regularly do, about violations of workers’ rights, slave labor wages as Pope Francis called them, and otherwise long working hours and unsafe and unhealthy work places.  That is one thing, of course.  The second thing is that the brands need to be sure of the stability of the sourcing, so if there is unrest then that of course causes problems because they do not get their products."

    The meetings Monday and Tuesday were closed to the media, but a Ministry of Labor spokesman said Monday the government told the brands the courts were only acting against unionists and workers who had broken the law.

    Union leader Ath Thorn says the meetings offer a chance to improve the sector’s image and stability, which would benefit workers and brands.  He adds, Cambodia should act fast to benefit from problems afflicting the region.

    “In this situation now, Vietnam and Thailand have a lot of problems.  If the government can take the opportunity to be better in Cambodia, maybe we can get more business in Cambodia,” he said.

    The government has agreed to meet manufacturers and unions next month to discuss an improved wage-setting mechanism.

    Meanwhile, the highly criticized trial of 23 unionists and workers arrested in January ended last week, with the court due to hand down a verdict Friday.

    You May Like

    Russian-Backed Offensive in Syria Pushes War to Tipping Point

    As threat to Aleppo and rebel forces grows, US plan to negotiate becomes less and less appealing for Syrian government, says one military analyst

    IS Runs Timber Smuggling Business in Afghanistan, Officials Say

    Government turning blind eye to smuggling, according to tribal leaders; Afghanistan's forest cover dropped by 50 percent in three decades, experts say

    Video White House Seeks $1.8 Billion to Combat Zika

    Obama administration says funding would 'support essential strategies to combat the virus' such as rapidly expanding mosquito control programs, accelerating vaccine research

    This forum has been closed.
    Comment Sorting
    Comments
         
    by: Sing from: USA
    May 28, 2014 2:36 AM
    The main problem is the multi-national companies like Walmart dictate way low prices on the products they are buying. Resulted in low wages being offer to workers. The other side is the factory owners are they socially responsible? Every year multi national companies demanded lower price than year before. What kind of business sense is that. No inflation and material costs increases?

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    'No Means No' Program Targets Sexual Violence in Kenyai
    X
    February 08, 2016 4:30 PM
    The organizers of an initiative to reduce and stop rape in the informal settlements around Kenya's capital say their program is having marked success. Girls are taking self-defense classes while the boys are learning how to protect the girls and respect them. Lenny Ruvaga reports from Nairobi.
    Video

    Video 'No Means No' Program Targets Sexual Violence in Kenya

    The organizers of an initiative to reduce and stop rape in the informal settlements around Kenya's capital say their program is having marked success. Girls are taking self-defense classes while the boys are learning how to protect the girls and respect them. Lenny Ruvaga reports from Nairobi.
    Video

    Video New Hampshire Voters Are Independent, Mindful of History

    Once every four years, the northeastern state of New Hampshire becomes the center of the U.S. political universe with its first-in-the-nation presidential primary. What's unusual about New Hampshire is how seriously the voters take their role and the responsibility of being among the first to weigh in on the candidates.
    Video

    Video Chocolate Lovers Get a Sweet History Lesson

    Observed in many countries around the world, Valentine’s Day is sometimes celebrated with chocolate festivals. But at a festival near Washington, the visitors experience a bit more than a sugar rush. They go on a sweet journey through history. VOA’s June Soh takes us to the festival.
    Video

    Video 'Smart' Bandages Could Heal Wounds More Quickly

    Simple bandages are usually seen as the first line of attack in healing small to moderate wounds and burns. But scientists say new synthetic materials with embedded microsensors could turn bandages into a much more valuable tool for emergency physicians. VOA’s George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video Bhutanese Refugees in New Hampshire Closely Watching Primary Election

    They fled their country and lived in refugee camps in neighboring Nepal for decades before being resettled in the northeastern U.S. state of New Hampshire -- now the focus of the U.S. presidential contest. VOA correspondent Aru Pande spoke with members of the Bhutanese community, including new American citizens, about the campaign and the strong anti-immigrant rhetoric of some of the candidates.
    Video

    Video Researchers Use 3-D Printer to Produce Transplantable Body Parts

    Human organ transplants have become fairly common around the world in the past few decades. Researchers at various universities are coordinating their efforts to find solutions -- including teams at the University of Pennsylvania and Rice University in Houston that are experimenting with a 3-D printer -- to make blood vessels and other structures for implant. As VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Houston, they are also using these artificial body parts to seek ways of defeating cancerous tumors.
    Video

    Video Helping the Blind 'See' Great Art

    There are 285 million blind and visually impaired people in the world who are unable to enjoy visual art at a museum. One New York photographer is trying to fix this situation by making tangible copies of the world’s masterpieces. VOA correspondent Victoria Kupchinetsky was there as visually impaired people got a feel for great art. Joy Wagner narrates her report.
    Video

    Video Sanders, Clinton Battle for Young Democratic Vote

    Despite a narrow loss to former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton in last week's Iowa Democratic caucuses, Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders secured more than 80 percent of the vote among those between the ages of 18 and 29. VOA correspondent Aru Pande talks to Democrats in New Hampshire about who they are leaning towards and why in this week's primary.
    Video

    Video German Artists to Memorialize Refugees With Life Jacket Exhibit

    Sold in every kind of shop in some Turkish port towns, life jackets have become a symbol of the refugee crisis that brought a million people to Europe in 2015.  On the shores of Lesbos, Greece, German artists collect discarded life jackets as they prepare an art installation they plan to display in Germany.  For VOA, Hamada Elrasam has this report from Lesbos, Greece.
    Video

    Video E-readers Help Ease Africa's Book Shortage

    Millions of people in Africa can't read, and there's a chronic shortage of books. A non-profit organization called Worldreader is trying to help change all that one e-reader at a time. VOA’s Deborah Block tells us about a girls' school in Nairobi, Kenya where Worldreader is making a difference.
    Video

    Video Genius Lets World Share Its Knowledge

    Inspired by crowdsourcing companies like Wikipedia, Genius allows anyone to edit anything on the web, using its web annotation tool
    Video

    Video In Philippines, Mixed Feelings About Greater US Military Presence

    In the Philippines, some who will be directly affected by a recent Supreme Court decision clearing the way for more United States troop visits are having mixed reactions.  The increased rotations come at a time when the Philippines is trying to build up its military in the face of growing maritime assertiveness from China.  From Bahile, Palawan on the coast of the South China Sea, Simone Orendain has this story.
    Video

    Video Microcephaly's Connection to Zika: Guilty Until Proven Innocent

    The Zika virus rarely causes problems for the people who get it, but it seems to be having a devastating impact on babies whose mothers are infected with Zika. VOA's Carol Pearson has more.
    Video

    Video Stunning Artworks Attract Record Crowds, Thanks to Social Media

    A new exhibit at the oldest art museum in America is shattering attendance records. Thousands of visitors are lining up to see nine giant works of art that have gotten a much-deserved shot of viral marketing. The 150-year-old Smithsonian American Art Museum has never had a response quite like this. VOA's Julie Taboh reports.