Sunday, March 2, 2014

Cambodian garment workers continue the struggle for higher wages.

Garment workers in Phnom Penh  last year to demand the industry’s minimum wage be raised to $160. Source

By Richard Mellor
Afscme Local 444, retired

The struggle for a higher minimum wage by Cambodian workers is continuing as a national ban/boycott on overtime began last week. The ban is also to commemorate the memory of the workers shot by Cambodian police in early January.  Cambodian garment workers have been waging an ongoing campaign for a higher minimum wage.

Solidarity action took place around the world after the murders in January and one can only imagine the incredible courage it takes to take any sort of action against the bosses and again.  The overtime ban is also to pressure the government to free strikers still in prisons.

Cambodia sends more than $4 billion worth of garments to the rest of the world. It employs about half a million workers in 500 factories producing garments and footwear. Many of these factories are foreign owned and the industry, much like the industry in Bangladesh, is rife with abuse and poor working conditions. These giant retailers based in Europe, Japan or the US are complicit in the murder of strikers, it is on their behalf that the Cambodian government was acting when it authorized the killings.

The capitalists rely on oppressive governments to help keep wages low and union rights to a minimum in these countries. Just as they threaten workers who fight for their rights on the job in the US, they threaten governments and entire countries that they will go on a strike of capital or move production if they don’t get their way.

Cambodia’s Prime Minister Hun Sen reveals how global corporations use blackmail and extortion to force governments to brutalize their workers, “We will wait and watch factories shut down because of demonstrations or strikes to increase salaries.” He says, “And when they shut down their factories, please workers, do demonstrations to demand that the inciters find you jobs,” Here he is trying to turn workers against their organizations and strike leaders.  He is inciting violence on behalf of the global corporations.

Workers are demanding a $160 monthly minimum wage and the release of 21 men arrested during last month’s strike.

As I point out above and the Cambodian prime minister confirms, behind the conditions of workers in Cambodia’s garment industry as well as those in other countries like Bangladesh and Vietnam, is global capitalism, the system led by those 85 individuals who have more wealth than 3.5 billion of the world’s population. 

The time is more than ripe and the needs never greater for a united global workers’ movement.

1 comment:

Int'l Union League said...

Great piece! If you're interested in checking out a worker union devoted to tackling the core of this problem, global corporations' lack of responsibility for the laborers that produce their products, check out the International Union League for Brand Responsibility (

You can also email if you're interested in showing some global solidarity for Cambodian workers on overtime strike in coordinated global actions!