17 September, 2014Global unions joined thousands of garment workers in Cambodia today in an international day of action to demand an increase in the minimum wage from US$100 to US$177 per month.
Huge crowds of Cambodian garment workers wearing distinctive orange t-shirts braved intimidation from military personnel to protest during their lunch hour outside around 135 factories.
In Switzerland, IndustriALL Global Union and UNI Global Union made a solidarity protest at the Cambodian embassy in Geneva where Kemal Özkan, IndustriALL’s assistant general secretary and UNI’s Alke Boessiger, presented a letter addressed to the Cambodian Prime Minister.
The joint letter from global unions IndustriALL, UNI and the ITUC, which together represent millions of workers around the world, urges the Cambodian government to:
“enact an immediate and substantial rise to the minimum wage so that garment workers, whose labour supports a US$5 billion industry, can finally live with dignity. We fully support garment workers and their trade unions in their 17 September call on the government to deliver on a living wage.
The ITUC, headquartered in Brussels, also led a delegation of members to the Cambodian embassy in Belgium.
Further actions have also been held today in Korea by IndustriALL affiliate KMWU, who got round demonstration restrictions by making one-person pickets outside several big name fashion stores in Seoul’s most popular shopping spots.
KMWU also joined other Korean unionists in posting selfies on social media holding banners supporting the Cambodian workers.
In Australia, leaders and members from IndustriALL affiliates the Textile Clothing and Footwear Union and the Australian Manufacturing Workers' Union (AMWU) demonstrated outside H&M in Melbourne. Both unions were also represented by Unions ACT, which hand-delivered a letter to the Cambodian embassy in Canberra.
Social media participation has also been considerable with support from many unions, NGOs and consumers on Facebook and under the hashtag #WeNeed177 on twitter.
IndustriALL’s general secretary Jyrki Raina said:
“We will not stop our support for Cambodian garment workers until they earn a decent living wage, as is the right of any human being. The government must listen to its citizens - garment workers - whose hard work contributes US$5 billion to the Cambodian economy.
Letters have also been sent by many IndustriALL affiliates around the world including unions from Japan, Bangladesh, Belgium, Brazil, Canada, Indonesia, Japan, Malaysia and Sweden.
Further pickets have taken place at stores across the globe.
The campaign for a US$177 monthly wage, which still does not constitute a living wage, has been launched as Cambodia’s Labour Advisory Committee is set to announce the new minimum wage from January 2015 next month.
A coalition of garment unions, including IndustriALL affiliates, set their demand as US$177 based on a study commissioned by the Cambodian government itself last year that recommended the minimum wage for garment workers should be between US$157 and US$177.
Global unions have also written to the Prime Minister Hun Sen to ask why no progress has been made in setting up a functioning wage setting mechanism, despite assistance from the International Labour Organization.
Listen to Jyrki Raina talking about the reasons for the global day of action,
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