PHNOM PENH —
International buyers and trade union representatives have been unable to meet with Prime Minister Hun Sen or other government officials, despite a request following deadly worker demonstration crackdowns last month.
Major international buyers signed on to a joint letter condemning the violence and urging the government to allow workers to protest for a raise in minimum wage and other issues. They had also requested meetings for the first week in February.
“What we got was, in a letter they said, ‘We received your letter, and thank you for the letter,’” said Monika Lemperle, a representative of the Geneva-based Industrial Global Union.
Oum Mean, secretary of state for the Ministry of Labor, said there are no meetings scheduled between international representatives and government officials.
Cambodian workers have been demonstrating for a minimum raise wage to $160 per month across the garment industry—which is a main economic driver and employer of some 400,000 people.
The government says it could allow a raise up to $100 per month for now, and up to $150 per month by 2018. Workers say this is not enough to keep up with the rising cost of living in Cambodia.
Ken Loo, secretary-general for the Garment Manufacturers in Cambodia, said factories will not be able to pay more than $100 per month.
Union leaders say they will continue to strike for a pay raise, though a date for collective demonstrations has not been announced.
Meanwhile, international buyers say they want improved conditions for workers, who should also be allowed to assembly and collectively bargain.
Lemperle said an “action day” is scheduled for Feb. 10, where worker representatives will go to embassies across Phnom Penh. They will ask for a return to negotiations by the government, workers and factories, a reinstatement of dismissed workers and the release of 23 detainees currently in jail.