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Unions Want Foreign Buyers To Support Calls for Higher Wages

The unions want a raise for workers to $177 per month, to keep up with the higher costs of living in Cambodia.

The leaders of eight unions pushing for higher minimum wage for factory workers will submit petitions to foreign embassies on Friday, calling for purchasing companies abroad to support them.

The unions want a raise for workers to $177 per month, to keep up with the higher costs of living in Cambodia, a demand factories say they cannot meet, in a sector that employs up to 600,000 people.

Rong Chhun, president of the Cambodian Confederation of Unions, said they will submit a petition first to the Netherlands, and then to companies like the Gap and Adidas, which both source products from Cambodia.

Workers will start wearing yellow T-shirts with a logo that says, “$177,” but there will be no strikes yet, he said.

“We need foreign embassies to put pressure on all buyers, to find a way to increase the minimum wage for garment workers,” he said.

The announcement comes a day after about 1,000 workers in the Canadia Industrialized Zone made a one-day demonstration, near where at least five protesters were killed by a violent government crackdown on protests in January.

Rong Chhun is among six union leaders who have been called to answer to the courts for the December 2013 and January demonstrations, which contributed to a government ban on public assembly.

Returning from questioning last week, Ath Thorn, president of the Coalition of Cambodian Apparel Workers’ Democratic Union, said he was ordered by Phnom Penh Municipal Court not to lead any more protests. He said, however, he will join workers as they demand higher wages.

Heng Sour, a spokesman for the Ministry of Labor, said unions are only seeking to gain popularity with foreign countries. A wage increase is being determined, he said, but it will likely be lower that $177 per month.