News / Economy

World Retailers Want Negotiations in Cambodia Labor Dispute

A worker participates in a rally condemning the Cambodian government for cracking down on protesters opposed to the rule and policies of Prime Minister Hun Sen in front of the Foreign Ministry in Seoul, South Korea, Jan. 10, 2014.
A worker participates in a rally condemning the Cambodian government for cracking down on protesters opposed to the rule and policies of Prime Minister Hun Sen in front of the Foreign Ministry in Seoul, South Korea, Jan. 10, 2014.
Kimseng Men
Major international clothing companies say they are concerned for the safety of Cambodia’s garment workers and want to see peaceful negotiations between unions, factories and the government.

The workers have been on strike for weeks, calling for the monthly minimum wage to be doubled to $160. The industry employs up to 400,000 people.

Five people were killed, 40 injured and 23 arrested in crackdowns on striking workers and other demonstrators last week. Many laborers have since returned to work but unions are still calling for a raise.

In an unusual move, major international clothing retailers, including H&M, Adidas, Gap, Columbia, Puma and Levi Strauss, this week signed a joint letter decrying violence against workers.

“We strongly oppose any form of violence, and urge the Royal Government of Cambodia to drive negotiations among stakeholders to peacefully resolve this dispute,” Laura Wilkinson, a spokeswoman for Gap, told VOA Khmer in an e-mail.

Ron Parham, a spokesman for Columbia, said the company was “deeply troubled” by recent events. Columbia has urged the government and its labor advisory committee to set a minimum wage based on “international good practices.”

“We believe that every worker has the right to work in a safe and secure environment and to associate, organize and bargain collectively in a lawful and peaceful manner without penalty, interference or fear,” he said in an e-mail. “This includes the right to negotiate a raise in the minimum wage.”

However, the companies VOA Khmer contacted said they did not plan to stop buying goods from Cambodia if the minimum wage is not raised or violence against workers continues.

“H&M remains committed to Cambodia as one of our key sourcing countries,” said Anna Eriksson, a spokeswoman for the company. “As a key buyer in [the] Cambodian garment industry, we will continue to encourage all relevant parties to renew negotiations and to come to a mutually agreeable solution to this conflict.”

Representatives for sportswear companies Adidas and Puma said they stood by the contents of a Jan. 7 open letter to the government, unions and manufacturers, urging peaceful negotiations and restraint.

Cambodia exports about $5 billion in garments and shoes annually, but workers say they cannot live on the current minimum wage of $80 a month.

Cambodian garment workers run for safety in front of a factory of Yak Jin in Kambol village on the outskirts of Phnom Penh, Cambodia, Jan. 2, 2014.Cambodian garment workers run for safety in front of a factory of Yak Jin in Kambol village on the outskirts of Phnom Penh, Cambodia, Jan. 2, 2014.
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Cambodian garment workers run for safety in front of a factory of Yak Jin in Kambol village on the outskirts of Phnom Penh, Cambodia, Jan. 2, 2014.
Cambodian garment workers run for safety in front of a factory of Yak Jin in Kambol village on the outskirts of Phnom Penh, Cambodia, Jan. 2, 2014.
The Garment Manufacturers Association in Cambodia, which represents factories, originally said a wage increase was not possible and that factories would move to other countries if workers continued to strike.

But in a conciliatory gesture, Ken Loo, secretary-general of the association, said recently that factories would abide by a wage increase if the government puts it in place.

No new date for negotiations has been set. On Friday, Labor Secretary Oum Mean told VOA Khmer he was “busy” and could not discuss the issue.

In South Korea, Cambodian workers in South Korea this week held their own demonstrations in solidarity with the garment workers at home, calling on the Phnom Penh government to investigate last week’s shootings and hold accountable those responsible.

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Comment Sorting
Comments
     
by: Anonymous
January 13, 2014 9:05 PM
We wrote this to call for International Court or UN Action to deal with
the Government of Hun Sen who uses forces to kill its own people
especially workers were currently killed and injured at Veng Sreng
Street, Phnom Penh, because only the strike for $160 basic
salary for supporting their living lives.

by: Cranksy from: USA
January 12, 2014 10:34 PM
Who owns the factories? Individuals? International businesses?

by: KimPeter
January 11, 2014 11:45 AM


The un-armed prestesters were simply protesting for the raise and it was peaceful from the start, at least 10 days, until Hun Sen body guards arrived at the protest site with AK-47 military rile and shot the protesters, killing many of them. Hun Sen is a war criminal.

The person that this AK-47 rifle needs to be shot at is Hun Sen because he uses deadly forces to evict hundreds of thousands of innocent Cambodians without any compensation. He robs public assets such as land, forest, mine etc and sold them to foreigners for his pockets. Hun Sen commits serious crimes and this AK-47 rifle needs to aim at him instead and not aim at decent and hard working people like these factory workers.

Protesting is not a crime, it is a way of negotiating for justice or fairness. $80 dollars a month is not a fair wage for surviving in Cambodia. One room apartment costs $200 per month in Cambodia. http://www.numbeo.com/cost-of-living/country_result.jsp?country=Cambodia

World communities must bring Hun Sen to justice. A volunteered Khmer Rouge commander who is responsible for slaughtering millions of innocent Cambodian people. Hun Sen is a wicked and vicious human being.
In Response

by: Bob from: Canada
January 13, 2014 10:42 AM
In the name Cambodian people, down on my knee, my hands are folded please help to find justice for Cambodian people… You are their only HOPE and can save them from suppressions; from intimidation and slavery … You can make their dreams come true with only small efforts by just sending out a few words showing your solidarity and support in the name of democracy that is all it take from you….

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