Garment Workers in Cambodia Picket for Higher Wages

2010-07-14 12:00

Around 3,000 garment factory workers at Chinese-owned Barry Apparel in Phnom Penh refused to work on Wednesday. The workers demanded a bigger increase in the minimum wage.

“All workers requested a 20 dollar increase. But it would take at least 10 dollars, not the 5 dollars that they gave us, for us to be able to afford most things because everything costs a lot more now.”

“I appeal to the government to keep checking on the workers. Each one of them is ailing, and we get little payment. We cannot live with it.”

The government signed an agreement early this month with employers and five pro-government unions for an increase in the minimum wage to the equivalent of U.S. $61 a month from U.S. $56 a month, including a U.S. $6 living allowance. The increase would take effect in October.

But the Coalition of Cambodian Apparel Workers Democratic Union, which represents about 40,000 workers, had sought a U.S. $93 minimum wage and did not agree to the deal.

“In general, our stance is that we will have bilateral talks between us and the factory owner. We have asked the workers to write down all their demands, and I will take those written demands to the factory owner to discuss later today.”

The garment industry is Cambodia’s third-biggest currency earner behind agriculture and tourism.

Last year textile exports, of which over half go to the United States, dropped to U.S. $2.3 billion from U.S. $2.9 billion in 2008.

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