January 12, 2011
On September 18, 2010 over 300 Cambodian garment workers, many of them trade-union leaders, were unjustly suspended or fired from their jobs for participating in a nation-wide strike for an increase in the minimum wage. Since then, efforts to get them reinstated have failed, despite a court order and the government calling on employers to allow the workers to return to work.
The workers had been striking to demand a minimum monthly wage of US$ 93, which is considered to be the minimal "living wage" in Cambodia as calculated by labour groups and unions in the country. The strike lasted for three days and received massive support from workers throughout the country, culminating on the last day when over 200,000 workers from around 90 factories joined the protest.
The strike was called to an end by union leaders after the Ministry of Social Affairs invited them for a meeting to discuss their demands. However, when the garment workers returned to work the next day, they were confronted with mass dismissals of the unionized workers who had participated in the strike, and dozens of legal cases filed against union leaders.
The actions of the employers are in contravention of the Cambodian constitution and labour laws. They also violate International Labour Organization conventions on Freedom of Association and Collective Bargaining. The Cambodia government has responded by urging employers to drop the court cases and calling on them to return to the negotiating table.
In October, Cambodian courts issued a warrant ordering employers to reinstate the dismissed and suspended workers within 48 hours. The employers appealed and the case is still pending. Many employers have so far refused to abide by the government or court calls and have not allowed workers to return to their jobs.
Since September the Clean Clothes Campaign (CCC) has been calling on most of the global brands that outsource to these factories to demand that workers be reinstated immediately and unconditionally and that the owners enter into good faith negotiations with the trade unions.
Although some brands have taken some steps towards this, their actions have been insufficient to have an impact on the ground. Some of the factories involved supply products for major international brands such as Gap, Zara and H&M.
Please visit the CCC website to take action and write these brands to demand that the workers are allowed to return to work immediately, with compensation paid for the time they have been without work.