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Last Updated:[29-07-2010 07:02:48 EDT] Zoom in Zoom out Back to Tradenews

Cambodia Garment Strike Spotlights on Labor Rights

tradenews The wraith of global meltdown is still resonating in some form or the other in most outsourcing dependent countries. The recent Cambodia garment workers’ strike turns out to be a perfect case in point to the premise.

On Tuesday, the Cambodian police with riot gears thwarted a week-long strike sparked off by the suspension of a union official at a Malaysian-owned garment factory, which produced goods for international brands including Gap, Benetton, Adidas and Puma. It has been reported that the clashes between more than 100 armed police force and 3,000 garment workers in Phnom Penh had resulted in nine women being hurt, though authorities maintain the operations did not hurt anyone.

The BBC's Guy De Launey in Phnom Penh says the unrest could be a symptom of a wider social malaise owing to dwindling orders in Cambodia's crucial garment industry which resulted in tens of thousands of job losses. Early this month, government increased the minimum wage from about $50 to $60, but the double-digit inflation and the trade unions demands of above $80 seemed to be bogging down the effect.

Albeit the unions retracted from a three-day general strike in protest against the meagre rise, the union official’s suspension is believed to have aggravated the situation. But last week’s Huffington Post report interpreted these strikes as a knee-jerk reaction to irrational calibration of wages by the outsourcing firms or associated agencies.

Interestingly, in last week’s blog by Auret van Heerden, President and CEO of the Fair Labour Association visualizes firms that build strong Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) programmes into their operations and culture would have the edge in many markets. Nevertheless, evidences show such practices by firms are beyond procurement principles as it solely reckons pricing and related aspects devoid of labour rights - especially post-meltdown.

Cambodia’s textile industry accounts for around 85 percent of exports, and is the country’s third-largest source of income after tourism and agriculture. The Southeast Asian state continues to be in the grip of labour problems particularly after the global economic crisis that bombed exports severely to create an economic landscape of joblessness - and desertion of production units by the employers.

By Jose Roy

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