Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen has officially discouraged garment factory workers from going on strike. Should strikes threaten the profitability of Cambodian garment factories, Hun Sen warned in a speech this Wednesday, workers could find themselves permanently without jobs.
“Do not allow investors to leave our country,” Hun Sen admonished workers, “or there will be consequences for us.”
The Prime Minister urged factory workers to consider recent minimum wage increases. While he admitted that wages are still “not in line with demands,” they have risen to $80 per month — higher, he reminded workers, than the minimum wage for garment workers in India, Bangladesh, and Myanmar.
But in a public response to the Prime Minister’s speech, Chea Mony, the president of Free Trade Union (FTU), pointed out that garment exporters in India and Bangladesh pay import taxes to the US and EU, which Cambodian garment exporters are not required to pay. Therefore, said Mony, factory owners in Cambodia should have additional money to spend on wages.
In an interview with the UK’s Just-Style, Ken Loo of the Garment Manufacturers Association in Cambodia (GMAC), outlined the organization’s position. “GMAC does not oppose workers demonstrating for better benefits and wages,” he said. GMAC does, however, insist that all strikes be conducted legally, and only once “all other means of resolving the conflict” have been tried.
At last count, there are some 500,000 workers in Cambodia’s garment industry. The sector has attracted growing attention from foreign investors in recent years, exporting $4.61 billion worth of goods and growing 9% in 2012.