In January 2014, garment workers across Cambodia went on strike after the Cambodian Government failed to listen to its own committees advice and raised the minimum wage to just USD95. Far lower than the USD 160 workers and trade unions were demanding.
On January 2 and 3 the police and military turned violent and four people were killed, 39 injured and 23 detained.
On Friday 30th May 2014, the court convicted and then released the 23 garment workers and unionists who were arrested during the violent crackdown of the wage protest in Cambodia in January. Their sentences were suspended after huge pressure from international campaign groups and unions.
The struggle for a living wage continues.
Background on the industry
Since the 1990’s, Cambodia’s garment industry has established itself as central to the nation’s economy. As of 2014 it accounts for around 85% of the country’s exports.
The garment industry is concentrated in and around the capital city, Phnom Penh, with a smaller number of factories scattered throughout the provinces. With 500 factories it is responsible for the employment of almost half a million people.
An estimated 85 per cent of the garment factories are foreign controlled, mostly by Chinese, Taiwanese, Singaporean and Malaysian investors, who moved to the country in the 1990s to take advantage of the low-cost labour market and the country’s quota-free access to US and EU markets.
A number of major clothing brands source from Cambodia. The top five are: Adidas, H&M, GAP, Levi Strauss & Co, Adidas and Target.