Cambodian Garment Workers take to the street for increased wages and safer working conditions

Cambodian Garment Workers take to the street for increased wages and safer working conditions

From our correspondent

With one of the lowest minimum wages in South East Asia, Cambodian garment workers are challenging the country's freedom of expression while demanding a much needed increase to the current $61 per month living wage.

With a workforce of over 300,000 workers, Cambodian garment workers have taken part in 28 strikes between November and April this year - twice as many strikes as they did this time last year - demanding a living wage that reflects reality. Many of the factories involved in these protests supply brands such as H&M, Gap and Levi Strauss.

Cambodia made international news earlier this year when three garment factory workers were shot while protesting outside their factory, Kaoway Sports in Bavet city, which were manufacturing for international brands such as PUMA and Clarks International.

Since then little has changed. Workers are struggling to survive on a wholly inadequate minimum wage, which makes overtime a necessity, simply to get by.

On Wednesday 11 July, workers again took to the streets of Cambodia’s capital, Phnom Penh. This however saw a very different outcome – assurance that garment workers will receive a wage increase of $7 per month to cover additional allowances for transportation and housing. This came after a decision in November to increase wages by $5 to cover health costs, which brings the monthly take home pay for garment workers to $73.

This of course is a small victory for the thousands of brave protestors who have challenged the Government and multinational corporations in a bid to improve their living and working lives.

It is a hopeful start but, with little union representation, an increasingly violent crackdown by the police, and a minimum wage that remains considerably below the rest of South East Asia and below a sufficient living wage, Cambodian garment workers have a long road ahead if they are to achieve their demands.

Neat video

Found on YouTube about sweatshops, which echoes my comment about South Africa last year:

Not so neat

Sweated labour is any work where your labour is "sweated" out of you through poor conditions and poor reward (low wages), not just workers in certain factories.

It is no argument to say to workers suffering exploitation and abuse in one factory are better off than those suffering in another sector of the economy. All exploitation and abuse in the work place is wrong. Employers simply shouldn't be allowed to make a profit from workers without decent pay and conditions.

People don't simply work in sweatshop conditions because of choice. Yes a worker may work in poor conditions for low wages in order to earn a living, and will see their position as better than others in worse labour conditions, but that does not justify the exploitation that they are subject to.

Sweatshops are not good for the economy they are good for the profits of the owners of the factories.

All workers, EVERYWHERE, are entitled to safe conditions, a living wage and sufficient leisure time.

Wishful thinking

"All workers, EVERYWHERE, are entitled to safe conditions, a living wage and sufficient leisure time."

People get what they can earn, EVERYWHERE. Just saying that (you wish) people are entitled to something is touching, but doesn't get us any further than me wishing I were better off. I don't see any real-world principles or mechanisms that entitle workers to the things you aspire for them.

Happy campaigning!

BTW, is it possible to get rid of some of the older items at the top of this website? Leading with 1 and 2 year old stories doesn't look great.


Andrew, I suggest you research the history of labour struggles in Europe and the US.

People have struggled hard for the RIGHT to safe conditions, a living wage and sufficient leisure time, and in the west they won those rights, which are now enshrined in law and are enjoyed by (I presume) you and people around you.

In other countries around the world these "real-world principles or mechanisms", that we call labour laws, exist to protect workers from exploitation. Even in a country like Thailand for example, where exploitation is rife, a minimum wage exists, legally obliged overtime pay exists, and legal entitlement to holidays exists; people suffer from exploitation when these law are flouted or where they don't exist.

No Sweat, and other groups and individuals around the world, don't "wish" for these things, they advocate them and campaign for them. In many cases they help workers win them.

At the end of the day workers rights are human rights and the exploitation of workers cannot be justified by economics.

BTW why do you spend so much time commenting on a campaign site whose principles you don't agree with? Are you a regular at Oxfam's site, telling them the economic reasons why people in West Africa should starve when they can't afford the most basic food items?