INTERNATIONAL NEWS: Cambodian Garment Workers Continue To Protest For Increased Wages
Cambodian garment workers, one of the worlds largest apparel manufacturing countries alongside Bangladesh, continue to defy government orders in strikes and riots demanding higher wages. The job action has forced many factories to halt production in what has been a key issue for the global fashion industry last year, and what is expected to remain in the spotlight in 2014.
Cambodian police in riot gear stand guard Friday during a garment workers’ protest in Phnom Penh. Cambodian human rights advocates say at least four protesters were killed when troops fired on the crowds of workers on strike for higher wages.
(Luc Forsyth / AFP/Getty Images / January 3, 2014)
A meeting was scheduled earlier this week between the Garment Manufacturers Association in Cambodia (GMAC) and union workers; however, GMAC refused to attend. The cost of the riots are soon to be assessed while each garment factory in the region is estimating a loss of $20,000-$30,000 a day.
Labor officials set a deadline on Thursday, January 2nd, as the end date for workers to terminate their strikes and warned rioters of the pursuit of legal action that will be held against defiant unions and continued protests. On the following day, the riots continued; Cambodian military police opened fire with assault rifles in an effort to shut down protests caused by stone-throwing factory workers. Workers had continued to take to the streets demanding their minimum wage be doubled to US$160/month, higher than the government’s latest offer of US$100/month.
Labor Ministry spokesman, Heng Sour stated that there will be no further negotiations between the protestors and the Labor Ministry, as the ministry has already decided on a final increased wage of US$100 a month.
Cambodia relies heavily on garment manufacturing as its main export earner; manufacturers favor its low-wage costs. Nonetheless, strikes are frequent due to the widespread dissatisfaction with low salaries, poor working conditions, and lack of enforcement of labor laws. How appalling it is that officers of the law use such extreme lethal force towards workers. Appalled campaigners working in large corporations, like H&M, Gap, Marks and Spencer, Tesco, and Levi’s, stage protests outside of the Cambodian embassy in London. Anti-poverty and student groups merged forces against the violent oppression of the garment strike which recently, led to four people being shot and killed by military police last week.
Garment workers have, thus far, carried out 131 strikes from January to November in 2013; just a slight increase from the 121 recorded back in 2012. This disorder makes 2013 the year that has tolerated the most strikes on record since 2003.