The agitation rocking the garment industry in Cambodia is worrying major global clothing brands that source from that country. In fact, some have already started scaling back orders. Police have shot dead at least five garment workers striking for higher wages. Many more workers and activists have been arrested.
Some brands have offered to raise the prices they pay factories so that workers’ wages can be raised. They say peaceful strikes and protests should not be met with state violence, and that anti-union lawsuits should be dropped. Representatives of the brands and unions met the government’s top labor and commerce officials and warned in a joint statement that the industry was at a tipping point. They say that due to reaction of consumers, and the disruption to production and shipping caused by continued unrest, Cambodia is at risk of losing its status as a strategic sourcing market, with an impact on future investment and growth.
The garment trade added a critical $5 billion to the country’s gross domestic product last year. It accounts for 80 per cent of all exports from Cambodia, and provides more than 5,00,000 jobs in a nation of 15 million.