A year after five people were shot dead by police and 40 more were severely injured during wage protests in Phnom Penh on 3 January 2014, unionists in Cambodia are still being subjected to violence.
Last month, a locally elected president from IndustriALL Global Union affiliate, the FTUWKC garment union, was brutally attacked with a metal bar by two unidentified men after she had been threatened by management to stop organizing at the factory where she works.
However, violence and intimidation did not deter unions and garment workers from taking to the streets again and again in 2014 to demand higher wages and better working conditions.
Thanks to their bravery, international solidarity and high-level negotiations between IndustriALL, the government, factory owners and local union leaders, the minimum wage for the garment industry increased from US$ 100 to US$ 128 in November 2014.
Despite this significant gain, the figure is below unions’ goal of US$ 177 per month and well below the living wage, estimated to be above US$ 200.
Prior to the government increase in the minimum wage, IndustriALL secured a commitment from eight global brands, including the H&M and the world’s biggest fashion retailer, Inditex, to pay factory owners more for clothes from Cambodia.
Now it is up to every global brand sourcing from the country to agree to factor in higher wage costs into their pricing structures. This could be as little as a few cents on the price of a t-shirt.
The International Labour Organization has also joined IndustriALL in urging all brands to pay more to factory owners to take into account the increase in the minimum wage.
IndustriALL is currently working with global fashion brands to establish an industry-wide mechanism to achieve living wages across the garment industry in Asia, which would also help to stop brands pulling out of countries to find cheaper labour elsewhere in the region.