Women working in the washing section of a Cambodian garment factory. Photo: ILO/ Livingston Armytage
World is watching as women workers protest in Cambodia
The predominantly female garment workers of Cambodia will be protesting in Freedom park, Phnom Penh on Saturday, International Women’s Day. Their main concern is low wages, but they are also protesting about the restrictions on freedom of association and assembly. Their rally is billed as a ‘Forum on Labour Rights’.
Global unions are worried that the Cambodian government will respond violently, as they were over Christmas when at least 5 protesters were killed. All week the Cambodian government has been moving police and troops into position, preparing for what is designed to be a peaceful protest.
Knowing that the world is watching might just give the Cambodian government second thoughts. So TUC General Secretary Frances O’Grady wrote to the Cambodian Prime Minister on Friday, and global union IndustriALL has set up an online action so that you can add your voice to those calling for restraint. Frances’ letter says:
“I am deeply concerned at reports that roughly 2,000 police officers in riot gear recently carried out crowd-control drills at Olympic Stadium. Together with the recent decision of the government to appoint the heads of the armed forces to the Committee to Solve Strikes and Demonstrations, this makes us fearful about the safety of participants in tomorrow’s protest.”
Once the weekend is over – hopefully without incident – unions will return to pressing the Government to raise the minimum wage, and looking at the role that governments and global corporates and brands can play. But we face a Cambodian employers’ organisation – GMAC – which is now calling on the Cambodian Government to denounce ILO Convention 87 on freedom of association.