Cambodian labour union leaders this week are taking cues from international advocates and unions from other countries in ways they can strengthen the labour movement in the Kingdom and around the world.
At a four-day forum in Hong Kong that began yesterday, union leaders and members of civil society from Asia, Africa and elsewhere across the globe met, according to Phil Robertson, deputy director of Human Rights Watch’s Asia division. Discussions will centre on how to eliminate exploitation, which runs rampant in the global garment industry.
On the first day of the Clean Clothes Campaign-sponsored conference, solidarity among unions and advocates was the main topic.
“Garment workers are some of the most abused in the world,” Robertson told the Post from the conference yesterday. The forum, he said, is “about building international solidarity for garment workers and ensuring their rights”.
The gathering fell less than a week after Cambodia’s Ministry of Labour set next year’s garment sector minimum monthly wage at $128 – an amount denounced by unions and advocates but more or less accepted by workers.
Among Cambodian union leaders attending the conference was Coalition of Cambodian Apparel Workers’ Democratic Union vice president Kong Athit, who said he will bring back strategies to better negotiate the minimum wage in the future.
Unity among advocates could end the ever-present threat that improvements in conditions and salaries will push international clothing brands to move their operations to countries where labour is cheaper, Athit said.
“Brands are threatening to move [to cheaper countries], so we have to have unity and let them know that they can’t do that, and they have to sit down and negotiate,” Athit said.
Meanwhile, in Phnom Penh, global union IndustriALL wrapped up its Annual Project Evaluation in Cambodia, regional secretary Annie Adviento said in an email yesterday. Attendees planned how to put into action concrete strategies for strengthening the influence of local unions.