Fashion brands targeted in Cambodian minimum wage push

Lobby group the Clean Clothes Campaign aims to shame the world’s large fashion brands into supporting a Cambodian minimum wage rise.

The CCC says it is lobbying on behalf of a coalition of Cambodian unions that the multinational brands must ensure a minimum wage of US $177. Thousands of women and men in Cambodia and around the world, have worn stickers saying “brands must provide a living wage for workers!” in factories which produce apparel for major global brands such as H&M, Inditex, Levi’s and Gap.

The campaign is co-ordinating ongoing action in Asia, the US and Europe.

In October, the Labour Advisory Council (LAC), a tripartite wage-setting body, voted to approve a new minimum wage of $140, to be implemented in January 2016 for Cambodia’s 700,000 garment workers, despite objections from a number of unions.

“This insufficient $12 wage increase is a slap in the face to workers who have been organising for over a year to demand a fair minimum wage of $177,” said the CCC.

A coalition of Cambodian unions are joining together to demand that the brands immediately ensure a minimum wage of US $177 is paid in their Cambodian suppliers and negotiate directly with Cambodian unions a binding agreement to achieve living wages, decent purchasing practices, stable employment, and union rights for the long-term.

“Some brands, such as H&M and Adidas, have made public statements that they support a living wage for workers in their supply chains. However, these assertions ring hollow to workers who often work excessive overtime and still cannot provide for the basic needs of themselves and their families.”

Athit Kong, VP of C.CAWDU, an independent union in Cambodia, says the $12 increase does not reflect the real basic needs of the workers, “especially in light of the enormous profits of multinational brands”.

“It is clear that the only solution to poverty wages in the garment industry is genuine collective bargaining between brands, as the principal employers, and the garment unions.”

A Global Action Day is planned for December 10, International Human Rights Day. Workers and campaigners from all over the world will show support to the Cambodian workers with workplace actions, fashion mobs, catwalks, and other store actions.

Mirjam van Heugten from CCC, says brands sourcing from Cambodia cannot expect the women and men working in their factories to accept “these bread crumbs”.

“The workers effectively slave themselves at factories, only for the brands to make huge profits. The targeted brands such as H&M and Inditex must put their leadership claims into practice by making sure all garment workers receive a living wage.”

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