Cambodian garment workers continue to struggle for a Living Wage after violent repression of wages strikes in early January

News Real report on the repercussions of  the violent reaction by police and military in Cambodia in January 2014 following garment workers wage strikes demanding a wage that would afford them life of dignity not poverty.   Since producing the below video activist Vorn Pao has now been released from jail following significant international campaigning. 

Cambodian workers are freed after 5 months in prison for demanding better pay

After release 23 political prisoners today,On be haft of CLC and CCAWDU I would like to address his remark regarding to struggling to release 23 political detainees and minimum wage demand in Cambodia.

“In fact, we are really surprised and excited that the government and the court decided to release 23 political detainees. Nevertheless, the political detainees were accused without proper reasons or evidence. Their release was a result of significant pressure from a number of major brands sourcing in Cambodia after significant pressure from national and international organizations, including the ITUC, UNI, and CCC as well as foreign embassies. This victory is the first step. The trade union movement will continue to fight for a minimum wage of USD $160 for garment and textile workers and to ensure the protection of workers’ rights, decent work and dignity”. He also added that “ Thus, we would like to request you, friends and colleagues, to continue struggling to ensure brands to push their suppliers, as well as Cambodian government to increase minimum wage 160 US Dollar per month, drop all charges against union leaders, and stop the discrimination against and brutal repression of unions. This significant victory is good sign for workers as well as the Cambodian people as a whole and provides a platform from which we can build future success in our struggle”. More importantly, Kong Athit, Secretary General of CLC, says: “The workers of Cambodia welcome this fantastic and unexpected news. Finally there is justice for Pao Vorn and the other 22 activists, who were wrongfully detained for 140 days! But this is not the end of our struggle; the situation of unions and unionists in Cambodia remains very difficult and dangerous. We will make that very clear when Cambodia has to appear next week before the ILO’s Committee for the Application of Standards. So, we call upon our international allies to keep on supporting us in our struggle for a free and democratic Cambodia.

In solidarity,

CLC-C.CAWDU President,

Bail Denied for 21 Cambodian Workers

Bail has been denied to the 21 remaining detained workers

We are sorry to report that this morning bail was refused for 21 of the 23 Cambodian men who were detained during January’s wage struggles.

The bail hearings were held in a closed session this morning, February 11th, with none of the 21 men in attendance.  All 21 men remain in the CC3 jail north of the Cambodian capital Phnom Penh, which is notorious for its harsh conditions. Two of the original 23 detainees, were released on bail last Saturday.

We are extremely disappointed at this turn of events and will continue to fight for their immediate release alongside our partners in Cambodia and around the world.

Background Information

On the 24th of December 2013 an estimated 50,000 to 200,000 garment workers went on strike in Cambodia. Their main demand was a living minimum wage of $US160 per month. They were joined by a number of other unions and workers also demanding the same minimum wage.

Demonstrators have faced continuous heavy government repression for demanding this wage. This has included attacks by police, military police, plain clothes thugs, and private security who between them have used an assortment of weapons including tear gas, grenades, axe handles, sling shots, electric batons, AK-47 rifles, and metal poles. By January 4th, 4 workers had been killed, 39 seriously injured, and 23 indefinitely detained in the remote and harsh CC3 prison.

Of those arrested 20 of them were garment workers, and 3 were prominent human rights defenders – Theng Savoeun, Vorn Pao, and Chan Puthisak.

Another 2 workers have since died from injuries sustained at these demonstrations.


You can still show your support.

Sign the Petition in support of the remaining detained workers.

The below email will be sent for the attention of the Cambodian Ambassedor stationed at the Cambodian Embassy in the UK.


[emailpetition id=”6″]

Global outcry against Cambodian violence towards workers.

Groups call on global clothing brands to use their influence to achieve an end to repression against workers involved in wage protests and the resumption of good-faith wage negotiations.

Labour rights groups condemn violence against garment workers in Cambodia

Labour rights groups and trade unions across the world are expressing outrage at the brutal violence and repression in Cambodia following demonstrations by garment and footwear workers calling for a raise in the minimum wage.

The groups, including Clean Clothes Campaign, International Labor Rights Forum, Worker Rights Consortium, Maquila Solidarity Network, United Students Against Sweatshops, International Union League for Brand Responsibility, Workers United, SEIU, Framtiden i våre hender, and CNV Internationaal, The Netherlands, are calling on global clothing brands to take immediate action and contact the Cambodian government demanding:

  • Immediate end to all violence and intimidation against workers and their representatives;
  • Release of all those who have been detained for participation in the struggles;
  • Respect for freedom of association and the workers’ right to strike;
  • Refraining from charging the workers and trade union leaders who have participated in the strike;
  • Resumption of good-faith minimum wage negotiations; and
  • Ensuring all those responsible for the violence against the strikers are held to account.

Violence against garment workers began after Cambodian unions called a national strike on December 24, 2013. Workers were demanding an increase in the minimum wage to USD 160 per month. As protests continued, the police and military responded with violence on January 2 and 3, killing at least 4 people and injuring almost 40.

Seven brands sent an open letter to the Government of Cambodia on January 7 expressing their concerns over the recent violence. It is commendable that these brands are willing to speak up and appalling that so many others have remained silent in the face of such blatant human rights violations in their sector. The letter did not go far enough however, in denouncing the reprehensible conduct of the Garment Manufacturers Association in Cambodia, which has condoned the government’s use of deadly force against striking workers. As poverty wages are at the root of the demonstrations, global clothing brands must also recognise the role they play and take immediate action including:

  • Publicly stating that any future apparel and footwear orders in Cambodia depend on:
    • an immediate end to the violence against workers;
    • the release of all those detained in the wage protests and the dropping of all charges;
    • government re-establishing the right to strike and assemble;
  • Paying fair prices to factories, sufficient to enable employers to pay a decent wage;
  • Supporting the workers’ call for a substantial increase in the minimum wage (to USD 160); and
  • Committing to maintaining buying volumes from Cambodia if wages were to rise.

“Whilst our primary concern is the safety and well-being of those workers who have been detained, we are also calling on brands to look at the long-term implications of their purchasing practices.” said Jeroen Merk of the Clean Clothes Campaign. “Until brands recognise that these practices contribute to the poverty wages received by workers in Cambodia, and in turn the demonstrations we are witnessing, then no brand sourcing from Cambodia can claim to be acting fairly or decently.”

Cambodia’s garment industry employs over 500,000 people, is responsible for around 95% of Cambodia’s export industry and is worth €3.38 billion a year. The minimum wage falls a long way short of a living wage, and the poverty wages workers receive contribute to shocking levels of malnutrition amongst the mainly young female workforce.

“These latest horrific developments demonstrate why authorities can no longer afford to ignore the social problems and poor living conditions facing workers in Cambodia today,” said Tola Meoun, Head of Labor Programmes for the Cambodian NGO Community Legal Education Centre.

On Friday, January 10th, actions will take place at embassies and other locations around the world in a day of solidarity with Cambodian workers. As part of this day of action campaigners will call on the government of Cambodia to release those detained in the protests and resume minimum wage negotiations.


23 people have been detained. Until January 8, their whereabouts was unknown. Confirmation was received that they were being held in CC3 Prison, an isolated prison located two hours from Kampong Cham town northeast of the capital, Phnom Penh. The next bail hearing for the 23 detained is scheduled for next Tuesday, 11 February.

Sign the Petition in Support of these detained workers. The below email will be sent for the attention of the Cambodian Ambassedor stationed at the Cambodian Embassy in the UK.

[emailpetition id=”6″]


About 170 companies have filed cases against trade unions. About 180 workers in total have been dismissed across about 20 factories. Around 30 workers have been reinstated since then.



Living Wage Cambodia

Dignity not Poverty; Support a Living Wage in Cambodia

Garment workers should earn a living wage which can sustain a decent life. In most garment producing countries a living wage is a far cry.

Poverty wages carry severe consequences for workers and their families: extremely long working hours to earn enough to survive, malnutrition due to lack of sufficient food, appalling housing conditions and inadequate health care. Cambodia’s garment industry is the key source of foreign income for the country and employs 350.000 – 450.000 workers. After a big strike in 2010 the wages increased slightly but escalating prices for food, energy and housing leave the workers worse off than before.

Minimum Wage versus Living Wage

In Cambodia the workers who produce the clothes you and I wear earn a minimum wage of 61 US$/month. In addition they have the legal benefits: 5 US$ cost of living allowance, 10 US$ attendance bonus and 7 US$ for housing or transportation. A total of $81 a month. To put this  in context,  recent studies have determined a Cambodian worker needs at least $131 a month to live with in health and dignity.

Brands such as H&M, Zara, Levi’s and GAP are major buyers in Cambodia and benefit from the low production costs. But the cheap prices come at a human cost.

Join our campaign by telling these brands they have a clear responsibility to act to implement a living wage.

  • Support an immediate wage hike to 131 US$
  • Contribute to an increase in allowances for attendance, food, housing and transport
  • Push for regular wage negotiations in the garment industry
  • Publish a concrete action plan to deliver a living wage – the Asia Floor Wage – to all workers in your supply chain

What is a living wage?

The Cambodia living wage campaign lean on the following definition of a living wage:
“In line with the ILO Conventions n°95 and 131, ILO Recommendations n°131 and 135 and the Human Rights Declaration (Art 23), wages and benefits paid for a standard working week shall meet at least legal or industry minimum wage standards and always be sufficient to meet basic needs of workers and their families and to provide discretionary income”.

The Clean Clothes Campaign understands that a Living Wage

– applies to all workers and that there may not be any wage lower than this wage
– must be reached within the standard working week (which is in no case more than 48h) exclusive of benefits/bonuses or overtime pay
– must cover the basic needs of the worker and their families (one wage covers 2 adults and 2 children)
– must  provide some discretionary income (which is at least 10% of the amount needed to cover the basic needs)

Who stands behind the living wage campaign?

The mission of the Clean Clothes Campaign (CCC) is to improve working conditions and support the empowerment of workers in the global garment and sportswear industry. We are a coalition of campaigns in 15 European countries with a network of more than 250 organizations worldwide. We work in close cooperation with partners in garment producing countries in Asia, Latin America and Africa. Our partner in this campaign is the trade union Coalition of Cambodia Apparel Workers Democratic Union (C.CAWDU) which has over 50 000 members. C.CAWDU works independently from political parties and takes a constructive approach on social dialogue at different level: They provide training and education, support mobilisation, strikes and rallies, promote and negotiating collective agreements with factories and participate in social policy dialogue on key reforms.