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New hope for garment worker wages

23 September, 2015The first steps towards industry wage bargaining for garment workers were taken in Cambodia last week.

IndustriALL Global Union together with representatives of global clothing brands met with factory suppliers, unions, government ministries, and the ILO from 14 to 18 September to discuss ACT, a new initiative aimed at creating living wages in the garment industry.

IndustriALL is working with a group of 14 global brands and retailers to transform the way that companies source garments in support of higher wages for garment workers. The ACT process is to develop industry-wide collective bargaining in garment-producing countries which is backed by reform to brand purchasing practices to ensure that higher wages can be paid.

Cambodia, which has a garment and footwear industry worth in excess of US$5  billion a year, has been chosen as the first country in which to start the ACT process.

The ACT delegation, consisting of IndustriALL and representatives from brands including H&M, Inditex, Primark, C&A and Top Shop explained the process in a series of meetings with suppliers, garment unions, the Labour Ministry and the Ministry of Commerce and the garment manufacturers association of Cambodia (GMAC).

“Industry-wide collective bargaining takes wages out of competition, which means supplier factories can’t push down wages to win business,” said IndustriALL’s policy director, Jenny Holdcroft.  

“Support of the brands through their purchasing practices will mean that factories will be able to pay workers more, while improved working conditions, productivity and efficiency can also be covered in an industry-wide agreement.”

The delegation also held technical discussions with the ILO and other expert groups on how a system for industry-wide collective bargaining could be developed in Cambodia.