Campaigners urge fashion brands to support minimum wage increase
As negotiations begin in Cambodia between trade unions, the government and industry officials, consumers and activists across Europe have been mobilising on the streets and on social media to ask major high street fashion brands to support a minimum wage increase for garment workers in Cambodia.
To bring the shocking reality of workers suffering from malnutrition and children left in poverty to the attention of major retailers, the Clean Clothes Campaign (CCC) will collect petition signatures outside popular stores. The petition will ask brands to support a higher minimum wage for workers in their Cambodian production facilities.
Due to rapidly escalating living costs for workers in the Cambodian garment industry, unions say the current minimum wage of $61 per month simply isn’t enough. Over 90% of Cambodia's garment workers are women, aged 18-35, many have children and families to provide for on very low wages, and many are now suffering from malnutrition and live in dire poverty.
The Cambodian Allied Workers' Democratic Union (C.CAWDU) are asking for the minimum wage to go up from $61 to $150 a month. The Clean Clothes Campaign have put their support behind this figure, pointing to evidence that shows that a 'living wage' is more than 4 times the current minimum.
Athit Kong, Vice President of the Cambodian trade union C.CADWU said “The rising food and fuel costs have left many workers in need. C.CAWDU is calling for $150 minimum wage, which is achievable and very necessary.”
In the aftermath of a Swedish documentary focusing on H&M’s production in Cambodia, broadcast last Autumn, H&M's representatives repeatedly acknowledged the fact that garment workers’ wages in Cambodia are too low and that there is a need to increase the minimum wage. H&M have also stated that workers should be able to live on what they earn and that the minimum wage should provide the basis for a decent livelihood.
“Major fashion brands, who often say that a minimum wage increase is the only fair way for wages to go up, must take this opportunity to act,” said Jeroen Merk from the International Clean Clothes Campaign. “We're calling on brands such as H&M to 'put their money where their mouth is' and publicly support a significant wage increase that could curb poverty for Cambodian workers.”
Gap, Zara and Levi’s also source a significant number products from factories in Cambodia and Clean Clothes Campaign are all asking these brands to add their support to the negotiations.
The Clean Clothes Campaign, as part of its 'No More Excuses' living wage initiative, will continue to ask H&M to make long-term efforts to work for a genuine living wage in its supply chain, by adopting a concrete action plan with timelines, benchmarks and a follow up procedure.
To find out more information about the 'No More Excuses' campaign and to join the call on fashion brands to stop making excuses, please visit livingwage.cleanclothes.org