Cambodian Trade Unionists Locked Out After Mass Strike

Campaigners Call on Fashion Brands to Step in

Amsterdam, September 21, 2010 - The international labour-rights movement the Clean Clothes Campaign (CCC) is asking fashion brands sourcing from Cambodia to ensure that over 200 factory unionists that have been unfairly dismissed are immediately reinstated in their factories. The CCC is also deeply concerned about reports of on-going violence against trade unionists and labour rights activists, legal threats against organizers, and the court-sponsored retaliation against union members.

Last week thousands of workers from the Coalition of Cambodian Apparel Workers Democratic Unions (CCAWDU) and the National Independent Federation of Textile Unions of Cambodia (NIFTUC) started a strike of garment industry workers to US$ 93: a salary level that can ensure basic provisions such as sufficient nutrition and shelter.

On Thursday, September 16, CCAWDU and NIFTUC announced a temporary suspension of the strike following an invitation by the Ministry of Social Affairs to meet on September 27.

The CCC is disappointed that the halt of the strike did not put an end to the attacks on protesters, threats of legal action against organisers, and a retaliation against union members.

“Thousands of workers exercised their right to strike as established under the Cambodian law,” commented Ms. Ineke Zeldenrust of the CCC. “The strike was legal and peaceful. The intimidation and legal threats against trade unions activists must immediately cease otherwise Cambodia might lose its status as a relatively decent place to produce garments.”

The CCC has written to major buyers that such behaviour is unacceptable.  Says Jeroen Merk: “Now it’s the time that brands and retailers sourcing from Cambodia show that ethical standards are taken serious by urging suppliers to respect trade union right and reinstate unjustly dismissed trade union leaders. They should also convey to the Cambodian authorities that all legal action and intimidation against workers and trade union leaders should immediately be ended. Finally, they should encourage their suppliers and the industry association to enter into good faith negotiations with trade unions and aim towards a mutually beneficial resolution”.

The CCC also urged global buyers to support for a wage that meets living wage standards.


Notes for editor


  • As of July 2010, there were 297,000 workers employed in the garment industry and another 48,000 in footwear.  There are 470 garment factories
  • The Cambodia garment industry is a key source for foreign income, accounting for 70 to 90% of its export. In the first seven months of 2010, garment exports represented 1.63 billion US dollars, most of it is exported to the United States and the European Union.
  • The demand for 93 US$ is based on the following study:  Cambodia Institute for Development Studies (2009). ‘A Living Wage Survey for Cambodia’s Garment Industry’, 2009, financed by FES and TWARO-ITGLWF, available at:
  • The 10 most-important foreign buyers are; GAP, H&M, Levi Strauss, Adidas, Target, Sears Holdings Corp, (Sears, Kmart) Children’s Place, Charles Komar, The William Carter, VF Jeanswear LTD
  • Background on the fainting can be found here: Phnom Penh Post “Factory Closes Down After Mass Fainting,” 16 August 2010; 8 Phnom Penh Post “Fainting Hits Another Factory,” 23 August 2010.
  • According to the International Monetary Fund (IMF), inflation in 2008 reached 25%. The IMF estimates that inflation will reach 5.1% in 2010 and 7.7% in 2011 after levelling off in 2009.
  • The Clean Clothes Campaign (CCC) works to improve conditions and support the empowerment of workers in the global garment industry. The CCC has national campaigns in 13 European countries with a network of over 250 organisations worldwide.
  • Kong Athit, Secretary-General of the Cambodian Labour Confederation, said last week that more than 200,000 workers from 90 factories had joined the strike. “This shows our success,” Kong Athit said. “I expect that there will be even more than this on the second day of the strike.”