Cambodian garment workers demand higher minimum wage

H&M among the leading clothing brands urged to show leadership and commitment to achieving a living wage

Today garment workers across Cambodia and across the world will take action demanding an increase in the minimum wage to US$177 a month.

Clean Clothes Campaign partners are taking action in front of stores and on shopping streets in support of the Cambodian garment workers. They demand brands, including H&M – one of the largest buyers from Cambodia – show leadership by committing to the immediate increase in the minimum wage to US$177.

The day of action builds on intense campaigning by Cambodian workers who have been demanding an increase in the minimum wage in order to take crucial steps towards the payment of a living wage since late 2013. In early January, wage struggles escalated when police and military cracked down on wage protests and 23 workers were arrested and 4 died.

The current minimum wage level of US$100 a month is just 25% of the estimated living wage by the Asia Floor Wage, and means many of the 500,000 garment workers in Cambodia are unable to afford even the most basic necessities.

Year long struggle

At the start of October the Cambodian Labour Advisory Committee will reconvene its wage board with an expected announcement of an increase in the minimum wage. Trade unions and workers insist that this must be US$177 a month, whilst the Garment Manufacturers Association in Cambodia (GMAC) propose just a minimal increase to US$115. Unions have rejected this as not being sufficient to cover basic living costs.

Unions including IndustriALL affiliate C.CAWDU, CLC and others across Cambodia have come together behind the demand of US$177 a month, and believe after a year of struggle it is the brands who can show leadership and take the important step of increasing the wages garment workers receive.

Ath Thorn, President of Cambodian trade union C.CAWDU says Brands continue to squeeze the already small profit margins. It is high time brands take their responsibility and tackle the issue which lies at the heart of our protests: a living wage. The wage hike to US$177 is one step into that direction.”

H&M could lead the way

H&M last year announced a pilot project in Cambodia as part of its Road Map to a Living Wage, and yet they have failed to announce any benchmarks or figures around what a living wage would mean in the country. Clean Clothes Campaign is calling on them to show their commitment to the workers who produce their clothes.

Emma Harbour of Clean Clothes Campaign saysH&M have stated a commitment to improving the conditions of the women and men they rely on, this is the opportunity to show they can lead the way. Having identified Cambodia as a key focus for their Roadmap to a Living Wage, H&M should reinforce this commitment by recognising and implementing the workers call for US$177 a month.”

Clean Clothes Campaign alongside the workers and trade unions in Cambodia are calling on brands to immediately support the increase of the minimum wage to US$177 a month for Cambodian garment workers. In addition campaigners and workers ask global brands sourcing from Cambodia to show leadership and commitment in taking steps towards the payment of a living wage by:

  • making a long term commitment to continue their sourcing from Cambodia

  • agreeing to increase their FoB price to reflect this increase

  • engaging with the Cambodian unions through legally binding collective bargaining agreements.

In Cambodia thousands of workers in many key factories will speak out about the wage hike with around 100,000 workers wearing stickers while taking actions in their lunch breaks today.

New report

Alongside the day of action Clean Clothes Campaign has also released it's latest report on the state of the Asian garment industry.  The Asia Wage Report, builds on extensive research in six garment producing countries and lays out the the steps according the the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights that companies and governments should take to ensure workers earn a living wage.