Police move to clear protestors from a street in Phnom Penh, Jan 2014. Photo: Luc Forsyth
Cambodia: global day of action to free the twenty-three
Tomorrow (Tuesday 11 February), 23 trade union leaders in Cambodia will be in court for bail to be set after they were arrested in early January after violent clashes erupted in the capital Phnom Penh over the failure of government and employers to raise the minimum wage for textile workers from $95 to $160 a month (about £25 a week.) The TUC Executive Committee will meet that day and express its concern at the arrests and demand freedom for the twenty-three.
Global unions – led by the international union federations for manufacturing (IndustriALL) and retail (UNI), and the International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC) – sent a mission to Cambodia in January, and have called a day of action to demand the twenty-three go free. The TUC sought a meeting with the Cambodian Ambassador in London to present a letter to the Prime Minister, but no response has been forthcoming (we’ve not even had a response to the General Secretary’s earlier letter) so it will be delivered electronically.
Over the past six weeks, we’ve reported on the violent clashes that left 3-5 protesters dead (depending on whose version you believe) and the global outrage that greeted the violence. A joint letter agreed between the global union movement and thirty global brands (including household names like Disney and Walmart, Tesco, H&M, Nike and Next, as well as M&S and C&A) called on the Government to respect freedom of association and return to negotiations over a decent wage.
“People need jobs to get on, but they have to be decent jobs, too. As the world comes together to agree how it wants the future to work, that should be absolutely central to our ambitions.
“The conditions of workers around the globe matter. And as the world moves to a new set of development goals, those workers have to be on the agenda, because development needs to be about much more than simply handing out aid – it should be about long-term progressive change. A fair day’s pay for a hard day’s work under decent conditions should be a basic right for us all.”