International clothing brands and union groups presented a united front on Friday, sending a letter signed by 30 groups to Prime Minister Hun Sen’s office.
The letter asks the Cambodian government to address the issues surrounding the rights of 23 people detained since deadly garment worker demonstrations on January 2 and 3 and the violation of citizens’ freedom of association. It also asks the government to introduce a trade union law consistent with International Labour Organization standards, begin a new minimum wage-setting process for the garment industry and meet with signatories of the letter on February 3.
“They deserve praise,” Cambodia National Rescue Party lawmaker-elect Mu Sochua said yesterday. “This is the strongest the brands and the global unions have come together.”
Signatories to the letter include Adidas, American Eagle Outfitters, Bonmarche, C&A Europe, Debenhams, Esprit, Fifth and Pacific Companies, Gap, H&M, Inditex, IndustriALL Global Union, the International Trade Union Confederation, Levi Strauss & Co, Lululemon Athletica, Migros, N Brown Group, New Balance, New Look, Nike, Orsay, Primark, Puma, PVH, Tchibo, Tesco, The Jones Group, The Walt Disney Company, Under Armour, UNI Global Union and Walmart.
The letter also states the signatory groups’ strong support of the United Nations' request for Cambodia to launch a “prompt and thorough” investigation into crackdowns on demonstrations on January 2 and 3 that left at least four dead, dozens injured and 23 detained.
Protests held on those days supported a strike that started on December 24, after the Ministry of Labour set the garment sector’s 2014 minimum wage at $95 per month, rather than the $160 unions wanted.
The ministry later raised wages to $100, which unions and workers also rebuffed.
“The global garment industry is changing rapidly, and industrial peace is required to rebuild our confidence in the Cambodian garment industry,” the letter says.
Responding to the brands’ correspondence with Hun Sen, the CNRP yesterday praised them in an open letter released yesterday.
The CNRP letter says global clothing brands should maintain a firm zero-tolerance policy against corruption when dealing with government officials.
Although the letter does not mention any action unions will take if their requests are ignored, Sochua said she is confident that brands in business with Cambodia’s garment sector are too important to the economy for the prime minister to ignore.
“You’re talking about 85 per cent of [Cambodia’s exports],” Sochua said.
Council of Ministers spokesman Phay Siphan could not be reached for comment yesterday.