Cambodia: Striking garment workers take to streets

December 28, 2013

Striking Cambodian shoe and clothing workers have blocked roads and scuffled with police. At least seven people were injured and seven others arrested after clashes between the workers and riot police, local rights monitors said.

Community Legal Education Centre spokesman Huy Pichsovann said that police had beaten the marching workers with truncheons. After the clash thousands of workers led by two of Cambodia's biggest unions blocked roads in front of the Labour Ministry.

Most factories that produce goods for Western retailers have been closed since December 26, when the manufacturers association told its members to lock the workers out.

Many of the workers have been on strike for weeks and some for several months.
Tens of thousands of striking workers have held marches and protests over the past week following the announcement of a minimum-wage rise on December 24 that they said was totally inadequate.

"The current wages are too little and can't meet workers' needs," said Coalition of Cambodian Apparel Workers' Democratic Union president Ath Thorn.

"The government should solve this problem now, otherwise the protests will affect garment trade investment if the situation worsens."

He said up to 300,000 workers had been involved in strike action over the previous week in the country's nearly 800 garment factories.

Unions, workers and opposition politicians had been pushing for the monthly minimum wage to be doubled to £98 but the workers received only a £9 initial offer, taking the rate to £58.

[Reprinted from Morning Star Online.]

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