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International Union Urges Factories To Raise Wages

Cambodian garment workers shout slogans behind barbed wire set up by police near the Council of Ministers building during a rally in Phnom Penh, file photo.
A major international union wants Cambodian garment workers and factory managers to return to negotiations, following meetings between international companies and officials.

The IndustriALL Global Union said Tuesday that management should seriously consider a minimum wage of $160 per month, after international buyers such as Levis Stauss, Puma, H&M and Gap, which source clothing and shoes from Cambodia, met with officials on Monday.

International groups are concerned over workers’ wages and treatment, following mass labor demonstrations in January that led to a brutal crackdown and the deaths of at least four people.

Jyrki Raina, general secretary of IndustriALL, met with the Garment Manufacturers Association in Cambodia, which represents factories, where they worked to restart talks.

“Our message to GMAC is that we want to see them cooperative, to start negotiations, and take it seriously, because international buyers are considering their futures in Cambodia,” he said.

Ath Thorn, president of the Coalition of Cambodian Apparel Workers’ Democratic Union, said international unions and buyers could take action if the situation goes unresolved. The Cambodian authorities’ continued use of “military forces to intimidate or crackdown on workers” remains a concern, he said.

GMAC Secretary-General Ken Loo told VOA Khmer that the door remains open for negotiations, but workers must abide by the law.

An estimated 620,000 workers are employed in nearly 1,000 shoe, garment and textile factories in Cambodia, making the $5.5 billion sector a major driver of the economy.