Campaigners in London have called on major retail brands to condemn the violence displayed by police officials in Cambodia, where four people were shot during a protest over workers’ pay.
Other embassies in Germany, Hong Kong, Indonesia, Malaysia, South Korea, Thailand, Turkey and the US have also been targeted, in solidarity to the Cambodian workers, who begun a strike on December 24.
The Cambodian government had agreed to increase pay for garment factory workers to £60 a month. This was some £40 less than the £100 the workers were asking for, so the move sparked huge protests and led to street violence.
Labour Behind the Label, War on Want, People & Planet and the Asian TNC Monitoring Network organised the demonstration in London.
War on Want campaigner Murray Worthy said, “The violence and repression used against demonstrators by the Cambodian government is completely unjustifiable.
“The government must end the violence, release those arrested and launch an immediate independent investigation into the police attacks and shootings.”
Over 700,000 people are employed in the garment industry, producing clothes for well-known brands like H&M, Gap, Marks and Spencer, Tesco and Levis.
Rob Abrams from People & Planet commented, “This crackdown on organised labour is done in the name of so-called ‘progress’, to ‘free’ markets from external pressures, but in Cambodia we see what this means in practice. It means that workers demanding something entirely uncontroversial, a living wage that would afford them the basic right of living comfortably, are treated worse than criminals.
“All the while, the message coming from multinational companies remains the same undemocratic mantra: ‘if you treat your workers with respect, we see that as a burden on our profits, and we will move our operations to someplace else’. This is a flagrant disregard of human rights, one we will keep working to end.”
In November, garment factory bosses in Bangladesh agreed to increase pay by 77% and improve working conditions, following months of strikes and international outrage after a factory collapse in April killed more than 1,000 workers.