IndustriALL Global Union, Uni Global Union and the ITUC together with 30 major brands, including H&M, Inditex, Gap, Adidas and Nike, have signed a joint letter to the Deputy Prime Minister of Cambodia reiterating the need for an urgent resolution to the minimum wage and to respect the human rights of 21 wage protestors detained since demonstrations in January.
The letter follows a decision by Cambodian unions to postpone a planned strike on 12 March to allow time for dialogue with the government on the minimum wage process. Garment workers are demanding an increase in the minimum wage from US$ 100 to US$ 160 a month.
Jyrki Raina, general secretary of IndustriALL, said:
“The unions in Cambodia have shown goodwill by postponing the strike, now it is time for the government to come to the table for constructive talks. Global unions and brands are united in their efforts to support this process to seek an end to the stalemate over the minimum wage. All the brands must commit to paying more to suppliers cover the costs of increased wages.”
Philip Jennings, general secretary of UNI Global Union said:
“The time has come for a new approach in Cambodia and that should come through recognition of global labour standards and dialogue. We call, once again, for the government of Cambodia to immediately release the 21 workers still behind bars for simply being brave enough to speak out about injustice.”
Sharan Burrow, general secretary of the ITUC, said:
“Freedom of association is under serious attack in Cambodia right now. The government has frozen all new union registrations and has banned public demonstrations supporting workers’ rights. Workers face retaliation in their workplaces for exercising this fundamental right. We all want to see a sustainable garment industry, and the government and employers need to respect freedom of association. Unions in Cambodia and around the world will campaign to ensure that Cambodian workers can exercise this basic right.”
Unions and brands are urging the Cambodian government to act on its promise for an inclusive and prompt mechanism for minimum wage determination mechanism as soon as possible.
The letter also says the passage of the new Trade Union Law should be consistent with ILO Conventions 87 and 98 and must be an inclusive process to foster effective industrial relations.
Unions and brands also expressed serious concern in light of reports that no new union registrations have been issued in 2014 and none will be forthcoming until the advent of the new law.
Furthermore, while recognizing the right of factory owners to seek redress from anyone proven to have committed criminal damage to their property, the signatories fear that proposed legal action against trade unions from factories that suffered damage during demonstrations “may escalate the current situation and make it more difficult to find constructive solutions”.