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Activism in their stockings

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Activists take part in a ‘faint-in’ in front of an H&M shop in Paris to launch the Cambodia living wage campaign. Photograph supplied

 

In another campaign to highlight low wages in Cambodia’s garment industry, activist group Clean Clothes Campaign (CCC) said yesterday it would deploy “fashion mobs” to retail stores across Europe – right in time for Christmas.

CCC will deliver a number of festive season “surprises” in the form of unspecified group activism at stores stocking Cambodian-made H&M, Levi’s, Gap and Zara garments in its latest push for big brands to play a part in raising the minimum wage in the Kingdom.

The campaign follows a series of mock faintings orchestrated by CCC in September at retail outlets across Europe.

The minimum wage for Cambodia’s hundreds of thousands of garment workers is $61 a month before bonuses and allowances.

CCC is pushing for an increase to $131 a month – a figure advocated by independent unions – as a first step towards a living wage of $283, as calculated by the NGO and union group Asia Floor Wage Alliance.

Klaus Melvin Jensen, a CCC spokesman from Denmark, said garment workers in Cambodia, whose minimum wage is higher than that of civil servants, were paid poverty wages.

“The big buyers, among them H&M, should be aware of the unacceptable situation in the factories, yet they refuse to ensure a living wage for the workers,” Jensen said.

“It is crucial that the consumers react by telling the retail companies their lack of action is unacceptable.”

Athit Kong, vice-president of the Coalition of Cambodian Apparel Workers’ Democratic Union, said there was an urgent need for a minimum- wage increase. 

“The retailers have an indisputable role, and all big buyers must work together and in true dialogue with independent unions in Cambodia to improve wages.”

The Cambodian National Rescue Party has promised a $150 minimum monthly wage for garment workers if it wins next year’s national election.

H&M has said it is committed to improving working condit-ions in factories it buys from in Cambodia and believes workers are better off with its presence in the Kingdom’s garment market.

To contact the reporter on this story: Shane Worrell at shane.worrell@phnompenhpost.com

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