Cambodian workers want a living wage

Labour rights article written on the 12 Oct 2010

Think you should get enough take home pay to allow you to look after your family and afford the basic necessities of life? Cambodian garment workers think they should.

In September more than 68,000 Cambodian workers went on a weeklong strike to demand a living wage. These workers are disputing the recently established minimum wage, which at less than US $2 a day falls far short of a living wage. A living wage should be at least US $93 a month according to a survey by the Cambodia Institute of Development Study.

Food prices in Cambodia have increased rapidly over the past few years as inflation hit a peak of 37% in 2008. Inflation has since slowed down, but wages haven’t caught up. Garment workers earning the minimum wage live in poverty and struggle to afford healthy and nutritious meals. According to Mr. Merk of the Clean Clothes Campaign, “the need for action is highlighted by the fact that in August hundreds of garment workers fainted in Cambodia as a result of malnutrition”.

The Coalition of Cambodian Apparel Workers Democratic Union (CCAWDU) and National Independent Federation Textile Union of Cambodia (NIFTUC), with 45,000 and 30,000 members respectively, have collected approximately 80,000 signatures and thumbprints from the mostly female factory workforce who want to be paid a living wage. Both unions are asking the employers association to enter into negotiations on a living wage.