Christian Dior leather gloves

Cambodian Garment Workers Are Pressuring H&M, Walmart and Zara to Make Their Suppliers Pay a Living Wage

After launching a nationwide strike last December, Cambodia’s garment workers are back in the streets demanding a monthly minimum wage of 177 US dollars.

Last year’s strike was organized to pressure the government to raise the monthly wage, which at that time stood at 80 dollars. Garment workers wanted to double the wages they were receiving, but the government only allowed an increase of 15 to 20 dollars. The strike mobilized tens of thousands of workers across the country, but it was violently dispersed by state forces in January, which resulted in the death of five workers.

The current monthly minimum wage received by Cambodian garment workers is pegged at 100 dollars. Export earnings of the garment sector represent about a third of the country’s 15.25-billion-dollar GDP last year. There are more than 600,000 garment workers in Cambodia, and the majority of them are female. But aside from receiving low wages, workers also suffer from poor working conditions, which often result in mass fainting incidents in various sweatshop factories.

This week, garment workers have revived the campaign for a wage increase, but this time they directed their appeal to the global clothing brands that buy and sub-contract supply from Cambodia. The campaign, dubbed as “The buyer must provide basic wages $177”, is aimed at pressuring global brands such as H&M, Walmart, Levi’s, Gap Puma, C&A, Adidas and Zara to directly negotiate a higher wage for workers with their suppliers.

More than 500 garment workers gathered at Canadia Industrial Park in Phnom Penh, the country’s capital, to press for higher wages. According to garment unions, about 300 factories across the country have joined the protest.

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Written by Mong Palatino
Global Voices

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