Global fashion brands and retailers have told the Cambodian government they are willing to accommodate any agreed minimum wage increase in their future purchasing from the country.
IndustriALL Global Union, together with eight international brands, including H&M, GAP, Puma, Levi’s and Inditex, met with the Deputy Prime Minister Keat Chhon, four senior ministers and other government officials for talks at the Peace Palace in the capital Phnom Penh on Monday 26 May.
IndustriALL’s general secretary, Jyrki Raina, who also represented the ITUC and UNI Global Union at the meeting, said:
For the first time global brands have acknowledged that they are prepared to cost in the price of higher salaries in Cambodia. The ball is now in the court of the government and factory owners to get round the table and agree on a new wage setting mechanism.
Cambodian garment unions are fighting to increase the minimum wage from US$100 to US160 per month.
IndustriALL and brands also called for clear timelines in relation to the new Trade Union law as well as the wage setting mechanism, as the government revealed that new research on the process will be released mid-June.
Unions and brands reiterated their desire for a positive future for the Cambodian garment sector, which employs around 500,000 people and generates revenues of US$ 5 billion a year. However, they warned that continued sourcing from the country would depend on stability, transparency, predictability and the rule of law.
One major clothing brand revealed that it had cut its sourcing from Cambodia by 50% in the past year due to concerns about political instability and human rights violations in the country.
Brands and unions also expressed their concerns that the trial of 23 protestors arrested during the January wage demonstrations must be based on evidence and stand up to international scrutiny.
There is a question mark over evidence of direct links to damage to property by the 23 detainees, while IndustriALL sources have cast serious doubts about the impartiality of judicial proceedings in their trial.
Furthermore, sources say the detainees are set to receive prison sentences of two to three years when they are sentenced on Friday 30 May.
Jyrki Raina said:
“If these rumours are true it will seriously damage the reputation of Cambodia’s judicial system internationally and who knows what reaction it will generate on the streets of Phnom Penh.”
Brands and unions also called for the catalogue of anti-union lawsuits to be dropped to allow unions to play their full role in social dialogue.
“If GMAC are serious about functioning industrial relations they must get rid of the court cases. Brands and unions want to see a thriving garment industry in Cambodia but with living wages and union rights,” added Raina.