On this 25 November, the International Day to Combat Violence against Women, IndustriALL pays tribute to those women who have been killed and harassed at work in South Africa, Zimbabwe, Ethiopia, Morocco, Cambodia and Bangladesh. The women killed protesting for their rights in Cambodia stand for the many others who were sacrificed for their rights.
On 12 November 2013 protesters clashed with police in Phnom Penh as hundreds of workers from the Singaporean owned SL Garment Processing Factory marched toward the home of the Prime Minister to demand better working conditions. SL Garment supplies brands such as Gap and H&M. This was the latest in a series of outbreaks of worker unrest at factories that produce for European and North American brands. The union, the Coalition of Cambodia Apparel Workers’ Democratic Union, organized the march and said that violence broke out when police tried to stop over a thousand workers from protesting.
Hundreds of riot police were armed with batons and shields and roamed the streets which were littered with rocks and tear gas canisters after the protesters were dispersed. Police rounded up more than a dozen people, including several monks. Officers beat protesters up and left several bleeding.
SL workers have been demonstrating for weeks in a dispute with employers that includes claims of intimidation over the use of military police in factory inspections. Two women have died in two months in violent protests in Cambodia.
Violence against workers is a threat to democracy while they are fighting for their rights. The Second World Women’s Conference organized by the ITUC in Dakar from 19 to 21 November 2013 called for a new ILO Convention to combat violence at work. Unions everywhere are called upon to join together to achieve a new convention to prevent the continuing scourge of violence that women and men suffer at work.