Global unions and brands meet with Cambodian government
Global unions and a number of international brands have met with the Cambodian government to discuss the situation in the country’s garment industry following police violence that left four workers dead.
The violent end to the strike of Cambodian garment workers, rallying for an increased minimum wage in January, left four people dead, 39 injured and 23 workers imprisoned. Recently two workers were released. Of the remaining 21 detainees, 16 are on hunger strike.
IndustriALL Global Union and the ITUC were joined by brands including H&M and Puma in the talks with the Cambodian government in Phnom Penh on Wednesday 19 February.
The unions released a statement following the meeting. It read, "We can confirm that on Wednesday 19 February, a delegation representing 30 global brands and global trade unions met with H.E. Keat Chhon, Permanent Deputy Prime Minister of Cambodia and high level representation from the Royal Cambodian Government.
"The meeting was called by the Cambodian government, in response to a request by the group in a letter sent on 17th January. In that letter, the brands and trade unions expressed their concerns with respect to treatment of Cambodian garment workers some of whom have been killed or wounded and others who have been detained by security forces.
"The meeting was held as an open and frank exchange during which the government shared their perspective on the situation and the actions already being taken.
During the meeting the following key points were discussed.
The Cambodian government’s work with the ILO to develop a trade union law. The government indicated a clear timetable to put a relevant law in place.
The development of a wage-setting process for the long term and the need for this to be methodologically sound and inclusive. There was recognition of the need for this to be thorough and to be put in place as a matter of urgency in order to support industrial peace.
The importance of the garment sector in the development of Cambodia and that future sourcing is best supported by a country that offers predictable, stable conditions which allows brands the ability to plan and invest.
The importance of the need for all parties to respect local laws, and to make all efforts to avoid any repeat of the violence against workers.
The group of brands and Trade Unions raised the situation of the remaining detainees and urged the government to implement due process, including a process for promptly granting bail and providing proper medical treatment.
The meeting ended with recognition by all parties that there continues to be significant international interest in the situation and the importance of positive progress in the sector. It was agreed therefore that this group would continue to seek constructive dialogue with the Royal Cambodian Government with a plan to hold a follow up with a meeting by the end of May 2014.
In a rapid response, IndustriALL, UNI, the ITUC and brands joined forces in sending a letter to the Cambodian government demanding an investigation into the violence, as well as a sustainable process for reaching a new minimum wage.
Earlier in February, representatives from IndustriALL, UNI and the ITUC held constructive dialogue in a meeting at the United Nations in Geneva with a senior diplomat from the Cambodian Embassy. At the same time, members of IndustriALL and UNI were vociferous in their demands when delivering a letter to the Cambodian mission in the city calling for the release of the jailed workers and a path towards a minimum living wage.
The world has seen solidarity actions supporting the plight of garment workers in Cambodia, following a call by IndustriALL Global Union, UNI Global Union and the ITUC to protest outside Cambodian embassies earlier this month.
Cambodia’s garment industry is growing rapidly and now employs more than 500,000 workers with textiles making up 80% of the country’s exports. Cambodia’s low wages and government incentives for businesses have seen a boom in the textile industry worth some 5 billion US dollars per year, while living standards for workers have not improved.