Cambodian Garment Workers: $160 We Need! Part 4 20140523- 20140913

CAMBODIA

$160 We Need

Garment workers demanding $160 minimum wage

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* New charges as trial wraps:

20140523 PPP Vorn-Pov
Union leader Vorn Pov talks to the public from inside a transport truck as it enters Phnom Penh Municipal Court. Photo by Heng Chivoan.

Despite presenting no hard evidence against defendants throughout the two trials of 23 men arrested during a strike that turned deadly in early January, a prosecutor used his closing statement yesterday to up the charges against union leader Vorn Pov.

The final day of two trials that have dominated public discourse for nearly five months ended with prosecutor Ly Sophanna calling for guilty verdicts for 10 men he claims were responsible for violence at the Yakjin garment factory on January 2.

More surprisingly, he told Judge Keo Mony that because Pov lacked evidence to support his claim that he attended that rally only in his role as a union president, he would increase charges against him to instigation with aggravating circumstances and additional penalties.

Instigation with aggravating circumstances alone carries a maximum penalty of five years in prison.

“We raised the charges, because there is no evidence that Pov went to Yakjin [only] to monitor the protest,” Sophanna said.

Pov’s lawyer, however, said in his closing statement that the prosecution had failed to prove the president of the Independent Democracy of Informal Economy Association (IDEA) had done anything wrong at all.

“There’s no real evidence to prosecute Vorn Pov,” defence attorney Sam Sokong said. “It’s just the word of witnesses who are not present at the court hearing.”
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PPP new

* Court Concludes Two Trials Against 23 Garment Protesters:

Two high-profile trials involving 23 men accused of taking part in a pair of violent garment worker protests in early January ended Thursday after five days of hearings at the Phnom Penh Municipal Court, with verdicts due next week.

Of the 23, union leader Vorn Pao and nine others were arrested on January 2 at a protest for higher garment sector wages that turned violent when protesters and soldiers, called in to protect the Yakjin factory, began pelting each other with rocks.

Over five days of hearings that ended Thursday after a marathon 12-hour session, the prosecution sought to paint Mr. Pao as the main culprit in the violence, accusing him of inciting the protesters to attack the soldiers. The defendants have all accused the soldiers of throwing the stones first.

Much of the day’s testimony from both Mr. Pao and the soldiers focused on what the union leader did or did not say to the crowd on January 2 and the tuk-tuk Mr. Pao drove to the scene.

Royal Cambodian Armed Forces Colonel Chou Eng, who led the unit of elite Brigade 911 soldiers deployed to the protest, insisted that the workers threw the first stones and that Mr. Pao’s tuk-tuk was found packed with rocks after it was seized.

He said Mr. Pao incited the workers to violence with his words, but could not recall exactly what was said.

Mr. Pao and the other defendants were all beaten by soldiers during their arrests at the protest, in some cases severely. Throughout his questioning Thursday, Mr. Pao complained that he was suffering from the aftereffects of his beating and at one point fell to the floor in a dizzy spell, prompting an early recess for lunch.
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Cambodia_Daily_logo

* Global unions and brands to meet Cambodian government for critical talks:

Global unions and multinational clothing brands are to again hold talks with the Cambodian government to voice their alarm at continued and increased violations of workers’ rights in the country.

The high-level discussions will take place in the capital Phnom Penh on Monday 26 May between the government, IndustriALL Global Union and brands and retailers including H&M, Gap, Levi’s, Puma, Inditex, Debenhams and New Look amongst others.

It is the second round of talks between the parties in a matter of months, following a previous meeting with the Deputy Prime Minister, the Ministers of Labour and Commerce and other senior government officials in February.
IndustriALL’s general secretary, Jyrki Raina, who will be attending the meeting and also representing the ITUC and Uni Global Union, said:
“Despite assurances from the government in February, there have since been unprecedented levels of intimidation, violence, and a declining respect for the rule of law, which together constitute a grave attack on union and worker rights.
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INDUSRIall

* Clothing retailers challenge Cambodian factory conditions:

Retailers including H&M, New Look and Zara owner Inditex are to meet the Cambodian government early next week to seek better treatment of clothing factory workers in the country.

The meeting, which will also be attended by international union IndustriALL, comes as workers campaigning for an increase in the national minimum wage and improved conditions in factories have faced detention and intimidation in a country where few trade unions operate. A series of mass faintings at clothing factories have also highlighted poor conditions.

IndustriALL’s general secretary, Jyrki Raina, who will be attending the meeting and also representing the ITUC and Uni Global Union, said: “Despite assurances from the government in February, there have since been unprecedented levels of intimidation, violence and a declining respect for the rule of law, which together constitute a grave attack on union and worker rights.
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GUARDIAN

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* Eight unionists arrested for leading protest in Takeo:

Police arrested eight labor unionists from the Coalition of Cambodia Apparel Workers’ Democratic Union (C.CAWDU), and sent them to the Takeo police station for detention.

Soeung Yoth, Soth Seam, Phin Sophea, Song Soeung, Keo Boeun, Tok Thoeun, Nok Sak and Ouen, were arrested yesterday after they had led workers to protest at the GSD factory in Takeo province, local police said, asking not to be named.

Takeo police commissioner Ouk Samnang declined to make comments on the arrest of the unionists, asking to turn questions to the court.

C.CAWDU’s president Ath Thon went to Takeo province on Saturday morning to meet the detained unionists, but he was not allowed by the provincial police commissioner to meet them.
to read.
CAMHERALD

* Factory workers show support for arrested unionists:

Today, hundreds of workers gathered in Takeo’s provincial town to show their support for eight union leaders and union members who were arrested yesterday afternoon during a garment factory strike at the JSD Textile (Cambodia) Co. Ltd factory.

The strikers were seeking a minimum wage of $160 and improved working conditions. Armed security forces have blocked the way to the court with barbed wire and to the provincial police station, where the arrested unionists are being held.

The eight unionists include six union leaders from the Coalition of Cambodian Apparel Workers’ Democratic Union (CCAWDU) and two CCAWDU staff, who came to assist the striking workers.
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licadho

20140525 According to @licadho: The eight unionists arrested on Friday were released about 7 pm this evening. 

* Gov’t Officials Prepare for Second Round of Talks With Brands:

Representatives from several major clothing brands and unions are to meet for talks with government officials on Monday to raise concerns about the deterioration of workers’ rights in Cambodia, an international union said late Thurs­day.

The meeting follows a previous round of talks between brands and government officials that were held in February. Since then, at least 17 union leaders and representatives have been arrested for their roles in planning strikes, including nine unionists on Friday alone. 

“Despite assurances from the government in February, there have since been unprecedented levels of intimidation, violence, and a declining respect for the rule of law, which together constitute a grave attack on union and worker rights,” said Jyrki Raina, secretarygeneral of In­dustriALL, in a statement.

Mr. Raina is to attend Monday’s talks, where she will also be representing the International Trade Union Confederation and the Uni Global Union. Also included will be brands including H&M, Gap, Levi’s and Puma, according to the statement.

Unions plan to ask the government about the failure to investigate the shooting deaths of workers, as well as the case of 23 unionists and workers who have been tried for their roles in January’s garment sector strikes, and for whom verdicts are due on May 30.

“[T]he lack of progress in forming a minimum wage determination mechanism” will also be discussed. Garment workers have spent months rallying the government to increase the minimum wage to $160 per month.
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Cambodia_Daily_logo CAMHERALD

* US Army Shuts Down Website Cited in HRW Report:

Four days after Human Rights Watch (HRW) published a report criticizing Washington for supporting Cambodia’s “abusive armed forces,” a Facebook page containing photos cited in the report has been removed from the Internet.

According to the U.S. Embassy in Phnom Penh, the Facebook page titled “Angkor Sentinel 2014” is managed by the U.S. Army Pacific, which sponsored last month’s 10day Angkor Sentinel exercises in Kompong Speu province. 

The exercises, held annually, are said to be aimed at improving Cambodia’s capabilities in hu­manitarian assistance and disaster relief missions.

HRW, however, charges that images uploaded to the Angkor Sentinel 2014 Facebook page—which show Cambodian soldiers pointing AK47 assault rifles—suggest that not all the exercises were related to humanitarian assistance or disaster relief.

This, HRW claims, is a breach of a bill signed in January by U.S. President Barack Obama that suspends all direct aid to Cam­bodia not used for humanitarian or human rights training.

“I am not surprised in the least that the page has been removed,” said Phil Robertson, HRW’s dep­uty Asia director.
“They want to make sure it is down before Congress started looking into it and saw the pictures. Capitol Hill will be asking lots of questions.”

U.S. Army Pacific did not respond to a request for comment Friday, but U.S. Embassy spokesman Sean McIntosh again defended U.S. training of Cam­bodian troops.

“The photos posted by the U.S. military on Facebook show Cam­bodians being trained to respond properly to the threat of improvised explosive devices, a persistent danger in Cambodia’s peacekeeping operations throug­hout the world,” Mr. McIntosh said.
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Cambodia_Daily_logo

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* Workers Turn Models on Political Catwalk:

About 150 garment workers turned out to the Phnom Penh of­fices of the United Sisterhood Al­liance NGO on Sunday to watch a politically charged fashion show entitled “Beautiful Clothes, Ugly Reality.”

Aimed to highlight “the income gap between Cambodian garment workers and the selected CEOs of brand companies,” according to show organizers, the two-hour program featured a medley of cat-walking, political theater and speeches calling for a $160 month­ly basic wage. 

After a brief dance described as “crackdown hip-hop,” which featured four young men “krump­ing” with their arms over house music punctuated by gun-shot sound effects, a group of about a dozen female garment workers, on their day off work, emerged onto the catwalk.

The workers-turned-models, who served as the stars of the rest of the show, presented a range of colorful clothing that had no unifying theme other than hav­ing been produced in a Cam­bo­dian garment factory.

Items spanned from unbranded plain black dresses to jacket tops and T-shirts displaying the “Pu­ma” and “Adidas” logos.

Event organizers said the show was designed to stress to both the government and the brands being displayed—H&M, Adidas, Puma, Gap, Old Navy and Nike—the need for a higher basic wage.

“If we don’t demand, there will be no change,” said Phon Sreivin, one of the workers who took part in the program.
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Cambodia_Daily_logo

* Stay away from factory, court tells unionists:

Eight members of Cambodia’s largest independent union were released on bail yesterday after being tried at Takeo Provincial Court over their alleged involvement in a factory protest late last week, officials said.

Defence lawyer Kim Socheat said the members of the Coalition of Cambodian Apparel Workers’ Democratic Union (C.CAWDU), who were arrested on Friday evening as they left a strike at the JSD Textile factory, had been released but were “under the control of the court”.

They each face four charges, which include incitement, though it is not clear when they will return to court for a further hearing.

Investigating judge Kao Sakorn put conditions on the unionists, including a ban on joining any strike or gathering in Takeo. The accused were also ordered to report to the court on the first day of every month and to cease their involvement with JSD.

“[If] the accused intend to escape, the investigating judge will arrest and detain them,” a court order says.

Speaking before the unionists’ release, deputy prosecutor Tin Sochetra said he had enough evidence for them to be convicted.

“We investigated before we arrested them. We have enough evidence such as the photos and video of them damaging factory property … [and] throwing a bottle of gasoline and stones into the factory,” he said. “They did not only destroy the factory property but they also threatened the workers and threw stones at the workers who carried on working.”

C.CAWDU leader Ath Thorn said that his union would continue to act on behalf of the workers.
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PPP new

* More Unionists Charged on Eve of Brand Meeting:

The Takeo Provincial Court charged eight union representatives with incitement Sunday for taking part in a garment factory strike, bringing to 17 the number of unionists charged this month alone.

The latest in the spate of recent arrests came just ahead of today’s high-level meeting between government officials and major brands including H&M and Puma, who say they are increasingly concerned about the deterioration of workers’ rights in the country. 

Takeo Provincial Court deputy prosecutor Tin Sochetra said the eight union representatives had failed to heed a recent court order instructing employees of the JSD Textile factory to head back to work.

“The eight people were charged on the 25th with incitement to commit a crime and making threats…and they diWorkers Turn Models on Political Catwalkd not implement the court’s decision,” he said.

Kuth Piseth, a JSD employee, said about 1,000 of his fellow workers have been on strike since April 29, the day after the factory fired one of their colleagues for collecting signatures in hopes of starting up a local union branch.

“We went on strike immediately because they fired our representative,” he said. “After we were on strike for many days and there was no solution, our representatives called the Coalition of Cambodian Apparel Workers’ Democratic Union [CCAWDU].”
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Cambodia_Daily_logo

* Takeo court releases eight C.CAWDU unionists after questioning:

Takeo Provincial Court released eight unionists yesterday after they were questioned for several hours.

The unionists from the Coalition of Cambodia Apparel Workers’ Democratic Union (C.CAWDU) were arrested on May 23 after they led workers to protest at JSD Textile (Cambodia) to demand better work condition.
They were accused of inciting workers not to go to work, and causing damages to factory property.
After their arrest, about 200 workers gathered in front of Takeo police station, and Takeo Provincial Court, but there was no clash while they were rallying.
to read.
CAMHERALD

* Cambodian officials meet with buyers from global brands on garment issues:

Cambodian officials, led by Permanent Deputy Prime Minister Keat Chhon, on Monday met with a 18-member delegation representing global brands and trade unions to discuss garment worker rights and wages.

It was the second round of talks between Cambodian government officials and representatives of major brands including H&M, Gap, Levi’s and Puma, as well as IndustriALL Global Union after a similar meeting held here in February.

Speaking to reporters after a two-hour closed-door meeting, Heng Sour, spokesman for the Ministry of Labor, said the meeting touched on the issues of minimum wages for workers, draft trade union law, and 23 labor activists and workers arrested during violent clashes in January.

“In the meeting, buyers called for the expedition of talks on minimum wages, urged for a draft trade union law by the end of this year, and wanted to see justice for the 23 detainees,” he said.

According to Heng Sour, buyers also warned to reduce purchase orders from Cambodia if uncertainty and unpredictability in the garment and footwear sector still persisted due to strikes for higher wages.
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CHINAORG

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* Brands back wage bump: unionist:

20140527 PPP
Workers demand higher wages during a protest outside the Ministry of Labour in late December. In incidents since then, workers have been shot dead and union leaders arrested. Photo by Heng Chivoan.

Major clothing-company representatives told high-ranking Cambodian officials yesterday that they would be willing to adjust their pricing structure to facilitate a minimum-wage hike, according to a member of a global union who was present for talks in Phnom Penh.

They also said that violent crackdowns on demonstrations and the ongoing detention of workers and unionists are affecting their image, according to Jyrki Raina, general secretary of IndustriALL Global Union.

“They talked about the increasing pressure from consumers, so the image is very important,” Raina said outside the room in the Peace Palace where he and representatives from four major brands aired their concerns. “Cambodia’s image got a bad hit in January when … workers were killed and many were arrested and injured.”

Yesterday’s meeting came ahead of a scheduled verdict on Friday in the case against 23 people arrested in early-January demonstrations, and after 17 union members were arrested while participating in strikes this month. Leaders of eight local labour unions – who were not invited to the roundtable discussion – released a statement yesterday demanding the release of the nine union members still being detained for the May protests in Kandal and Kampong Speu provinces.

After the meeting, Ministry of Labour spokesman Heng Sour said government officials had told the brands that enforcing Cambodian law is obligatory.

“We clearly explained to the international buyer representatives that the rule of law must be complied with in Cambodia,” said Sour, who named Puma, H&M, Gap Inc and Levi Strauss as brands that had representatives in the meeting. “The union [members] were charged by a judge, not because they participated in freedom of association, but they violated other laws.”

Brand officials refused to speak with reporters after the meeting, saying they would later release a joint statement. As of 10pm last night, the statement had not been distributed.

Sour said the company officials misunderstood the definition of minimum wage in the Kingdom.
“In our law mentioning minimum wage, we are not talking about a fair wage, we are not talking about a living wage,” Sour said.
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PPP new

* Brands, Unions Say Gov’t Moving Slowly on Wage Talk:

International union groups and some global clothing brands that buy from Cambodia told the government Monday that it was moving too slowly in coming up with a new minimum wage for garment workers and that one brand had already cut orders in half because of uncertain supplies.

Representatives from Gap, H&M, Levi’s and Puma all declined to comment as they left a one-and-a-half-hour meeting behind closed doors with the government’s top labor and commerce officials in Phnom Penh, which was a follow-up to a similar meeting in February.

Jyrki Raina, general secretary of the IndustriALL Global Union, said all brand representatives stressed that their continued business in Cambodia rested on the certainty of supplies, something they feared was at risk after months of strikes that have delayed some orders.

“All the brands who were present, they said that they need stability, that they need to be able to see what the future is. That was the clear message to the government,” Mr. Raina said.

A nationwide strike forced most garment factories to briefly shut down in late December and early January. Twenty-three men were recently put on trial for protests that turned violent on the final days of that strike, and 17 unionists have been arrested for taking part in strikes this month alone.

According to Mr. Raina, one of the brands at Monday’s meeting told the government that it had cut its orders back by about 50 percent this year because of uncertainty. He declined to identify the brand.

The latest round of strikes were triggered late last year by demands for a higher monthly minimum wage for garment workers, currently set at $100. The government has since started talks with the unions and employers to come up with a better way to set the figure.
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Cambodia_Daily_logo

* Cambodian officials meet with buyers from global brands on garment issues:

Cambodian officials, led by Permanent Deputy Prime Minister Keat Chhon, on Monday met with a 18-member delegation representing global brands and trade unions to discuss garment worker rights and wages.

It was the second round of talks between Cambodian government officials and representatives of major brands including H&M, Gap, Levi’s and Puma, as well as IndustriALL Global Union after a similar meeting held here in February.

Speaking to reporters after a two-hour closed-door meeting, Heng Sour, spokesman for the Ministry of Labor, said the meeting touched on the issues of minimum wages for workers, draft trade union law, and 23 labor activists and workers arrested during violent clashes in January.

“In the meeting, buyers called for the expedition of talks on minimum wages, urged for a draft trade union law by the end of this year, and wanted to see justice for the 23 detainees,” he said.

According to Heng Sour, buyers also warned to reduce purchase orders from Cambodia if uncertainty and unpredictability in the garment and footwear sector still persisted due to strikes for higher wages.
read more. & to read. & to read.
CAMHERALD CHINAORG SHANGHAIDAILY

* BetterFactories Media updates 23-26 May 2014, Stay away from factory, court tells unionists:

* to read in the printed edition The Phnom Penh Post:

2014-05-26 A Reality check for top brands
2014-05-26 Stay away from factory, court tells unionists

* to read in the printed edition The Cambodia Daily:

2014-04-23 Court concludes two trials against 23 garment protesters
2014-04-23 Striking garment workers foil leaders’ arrest
2014-05-24-25 Gov’t officials prepare for second round of talks with brands

2014-05-26 More unionists charged on eve of brand meeting
2014-05-26 Workers turn models on political catwalk

BetterFactories Media Updates Oveview here.
BF NEW

* Arbitrary arrest and judicial harassment of eight members of the Coalition of the Cambodian Apparel Workers’ Democratic Union (CCAWDU):

The Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders, a joint programme of the World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT) and the International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH), requests your urgent intervention in the following situation in Cambodia.

 Brief description of the situation:
The Observatory has been informed by the Cambodian Center for Human Rights (CCHR) about the arbitrary arrest and judicial harassment of eight members of the Coalition of the Cambodian Apparel Workers’ Democratic Union (CCAWDU) in Bati district, Takeo province, during a strike to ask for better working conditions at the garment factory JSD Textile Co. Ltd Factory.

According to the information received, on May 23, 2014, at around 4 pm,Messrs. Seang Yot and Sot Seam, two CCAWDU members based in Phnom Penh, as well as Messrs. Phin Sot, Keo Bouen, No Sak, Ol Sam Oeun, Seng Soeun and Ms. Chhem Sreypov,six CCAWDU members based in Kandal province, were arrested by Takeo provincial police during a peaceful strike at the garment factory JSD Textile Co. Ltd Factory. The strikers were demanding better working conditions such as to provide 50% of salary and stipend for female workers who are on maternity leave, to use the National Social Security Fund in case of accident at work, to provide salary for sick workers, to stop using short-term contracts for workers, as well as to not discriminate workers who are members of the union.

The eight trade unionists were held at Takeo provincial police station without access to their lawyers until they were brought before Takeo Provincial Court for interrogation on May 24, 2014. They were then charged with “instigating a felony” (Article 28 of the Criminal Code), “incitement” (Article 495), “threats to cause damage” (Article 423) and “discrediting a judicial decision” (Article 523).

When lawyers and some representatives of non-governmental organisations requested access to the eight detainees in the police station and in the courthouse, armed security forces with barbed wire denied access to them.
The eight were released on bail on May 25, 2014 in the evening after the President of CCAWDU signed a letter guaranteeing that the eight would not cause trouble at the factory and present themselves when requested by the Prosecutor.
(…)

Actions requested:
Please write to the authorities of Cambodia urging them to:

*  Guarantee in all circumstances the physical and psychological integrity of Messrs. Seang Yot, Sot Seam, Phin Sot, Keo Bouen, No Sak, Ol Sam Oeun, Seng Soeun, and Ms. Chhem Sreypov, as well as of all human rights defenders in Cambodia;

* * Put an end to all acts of harassment – including at the judicial level – against Messrs. Seang Yot, Sot Seam, Phin Sot, Keo Bouen, No Sak, Ol Sam Oeun, Seng Soeun, and Ms. Chhem Sreypov, as well as against all human rights defenders in Cambodia, and ensure in all circumstances that they are able to carry out their work without unjustified hindrance and fear of reprisal;

*** Conform in any circumstances with the provisions of the Declaration on Human Rights Defenders, adopted on December 9, 1998 by the United Nations General Assembly, in particular:
its Article 1, which states that “everyone has the right, individually or in association with others, to promote the protection and realization of human rights and fundamental freedoms at the national and international levels”;

and its Article 12.2 which states that “the State shall take all necessary measures to ensure the protection by the competent authorities of everyone, individually and in association with others, against any violence, threats, retaliation, de facto or de jure adverse discrimination, pressure or any other arbitrary action as a consequence of his or her legitimate exercise of the rights referred to in the present Declaration”.

**** Ensure in all circumstances respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms in accordance with international human rights standards and international instruments ratified by Cambodia.
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omct

* Brands ready to incorporate higher wages in Cambodia:

Global fashion brands and retailers have told the Cambodian government they are willing to accommodate any agreed minimum wage increase in their future purchasing from the country.

IndustriALL Global Union, together with eight international brands, including H&M, GAP, Puma, Levi’s and Inditex, met with the Deputy Prime Minister Keat Chhon, four senior ministers and other government officials for talks at the Peace Palace in the capital Phnom Penh on Monday 26 May.

IndustriALL’s general secretary, Jyrki Raina, who also represented the ITUC and UNI Global Union at the meeting, said: For the first time global brands have acknowledged that they are prepared to cost in the price of higher salaries in Cambodia. The ball is now in the court of the government and factory owners to get round the table and agree on a new wage setting mechanism.

Cambodian garment unions are fighting to increase the minimum wage from US$100 to US160 per month.

IndustriALL and brands also called for clear timelines in relation to the new Trade Union law as well as the wage setting mechanism, as the government revealed that new research on the process will be released mid-June.

Unions and brands reiterated their desire for a positive future for the Cambodian garment sector, which employs around 500,000 people and generates revenues of US$ 5 billion a year. However, they warned that continued sourcing from the country would depend on stability, transparency, predictability and the rule of law.

One major clothing brand revealed that it had cut its sourcing from Cambodia by 50% in the past year due to concerns about political instability and human rights violations in the country.

Brands and unions also expressed their concerns that the trial of 23 protestors arrested during the January wage demonstrations must be based on evidence and stand up to international security.

There is a question mark over evidence of direct links to damage to property by the 23 detainees, while IndustriALL sources have cast serious doubts about the impartiality of judicial proceedings in their trial.

Furthermore, sources say the detainees are set to receive prison sentences of two to three years when they are sentenced on Friday 30 May.
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INDUSRIall

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* Global Brands Say Unrest Putting Garment Sector at Risk:

Major global clothing brands that source from Cambodia said Tuesday that supply disruptions and consumer reaction to the arrests, beatings and fatal shootings of garment workers could hurt future growth and put the country’s status as a “strategic sourcing market” at risk.

The stark warning from delegates representing 30 brands and trade unions visiting the country, including H&M and Levi’s, comes as factories claim that most brands have already started scaling back orders.

The brands and unions are in Cambodia to follow up on a visit they made in February, a month after military police shot dead at least five garment workers striking for higher wages. Twenty-three workers and activists were also arrested for allegedly turning the protests violent.

Representatives of the brands and unions met with the government’s top labor and commerce officials on Monday and warned in a joint statement Tuesday that the industry was at a tipping point.

“Due to reaction of consumers and the disruption to production and shipping caused by continued unrest, Cambodia was at risk of losing its status as a strategic sourcing market, with an impact on future investment and growth,” they said.
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Cambodia_Daily_logo

* New law will stifle us: unions:

While trade union laws are typically written to expand organised labour rights, labour leaders said yesterday that they oppose portions of a new draft union law they believe will stifle their ability to organise.

Amid meetings they are having with the Ministry of Labour and industry officials today and Thursday, several union leaders said they oppose new additions to the draft law, a previous version of which was tabled in November 2011.

“It seems to lock many out from creating unions,” Pav Sina, president of the Collective Union of Movement of Workers, said.

If passed into law as written, the draft legislation would require at least 20 per cent of employees at a workplace to join a union for it to operate there. It also stipulates that only one union may exist per workplace.

Unions do not currently require a minimum number of members to set up in a single workplace, and there are no limits on the number of unions.

The rule could lead to wide-scale dominance of government-loyal unions and seriously hamper those that are independent, Cambodian Confederation of Unions president Rong Chhun said.
“I will demand that they change some points,” he said yesterday.
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PPP new

* Talks to Begin Over Controversial Trade Law:

The government will host employers and union representatives Wednesday for the first round of consultations on the controversial Trade Union Law, which was shelved in 2011 and would in its current form impose increased restrictions on union registration, give the courts broad power to revoke union licenses and flout international labor conventions signed by Cambodia.

The latest version of the law, which was distributed to unions and employers on Tuesday in advance of Wednedsay’s tripartite meeting, includes an article that would require 20 percent of employees at an enterprise to join a union before it is allowed to register with the Ministry of Labor. In practice, the current Labor Law allows eight employees to form a union.

However, the draft does not include provisions that would allow the Ministry of Labor to suspend or revoke union registration, a measure that has been pushed by employers but vehemently opposed by labor organizations.

The law instead gives a yet-to-be-created labor court the authority to withdraw registration licenses from unions found to be in violation of the law.

The draft law, last revised by the Ministry of Labor on May 6, also ignores a host of suggestions made by the International Labor Organization (ILO) in February, when it was asked by the government to provide technical comments.

In a document signed by Cleopatra Doumbia-Henry, director of the ILO’s international labor standards department, the U.N.’s labor body takes issue with 27 of the draft law’s 91 articles, noting numerous potential violations of ILO conventions on the right to associate and organize.

The ILO’s criticism centers on provisions that give collective bargaining rights only to select unions, language that may lead to arbitrary decision-making by authorities and the courts, and overly high thresholds that would curtail the ability of workers to unionize, and of unions to form labor federations.
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Cambodia_Daily_logo

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* ILO attacks trade union law:

An International Labour Organization official yesterday called the draft of a Ministry of Labour trade union law “a step backwards” during the opening of a two-day workshop meant to hear concerns of both labour unions and employers.

In a speech to worker representatives, members of the garment industry and the government, ILO industrial relations expert James Ritchotte expressed misgivings at the Labour Ministry’s failure to address many issues that ILO staff – who acted as technical advisers in drafting the proposed legislation – pointed out as problematic.

“What is especially troubling is that the ILO has repeatedly pointed to these and other gaps to the Ministry of Labour task force responsible for developing the legislation,” Ritchotte said to about 60 participants at the InterContinental Hotel yesterday morning. “It appears to ignore requests from ILO’s committee of experts on the application of conventions and recommendations.”

Broad and vague language, especially in the penalties section, opens the door for authorities to abuse the law, Ritchotte said. For example, he pointed out that one article imposes a 6 million riel fine ($1,500) for “not ensuring employment security and national development”.
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PPP new

* ILO Says Gov’t Moving Backward With Draft Union Law:

The U.N.’s International Labor Organization (ILO) said Wednesday that the latest draft of a controversial Trade Union Law was worse than earlier versions, ignored the ILO’s recommendations, and still posed major risks to labor rights in the country.

John Ritchotte, a regional labor relations specialist for the ILO, issued the harsh critique at the start of a two-day workshop on the draft between the government, employers and trade unions.

Independent unions, which already complain of heavy-handed union busting, mostly by factory management, say the law would only make life harder for them and create legal mechanisms to suppress union activity. Employers, mostly in the country’s $5 billion garment export industry, say those unions are out of control and need to be reined in before strikes completely undermine investor confidence.

This week’s workshop in Phnom Penh and the latest draft of the union law come soon after nationwide garment worker strikes briefly turned violent, and after a wave of arrests, beatings and fatal shootings of garment workers and unionists at the hands of soldiers and military police.

In his opening remarks, Mr. Ritchotte said many of the victims were carrying out “legitimate” union activity.
read more.
Cambodia_Daily_logo

* Ocean Garment Workers On Strike After Factory Halts Operations:

About 1,000 workers protested outside Ocean Garment factory in Phnom Penh’s Pur Senchey district on Wednesday to demand compensation for being out of work while the factory suspends its operations for a month due to flagging demand from buyers, a union leader said.

Workers have been protesting since Saturday after the factory announced it would suspend production from Monday until June 26.

Huon Vanna, 32, a factory representative for the Collective Union of Movement of Workers who has worked at Ocean for 13 years, said employees rejected Ocean’s offer to pay them $15 per month while the factory is closed, and are demanding 50 percent of their regular salaries.

“The factory agreed to pay us only $15 per month during the suspension, but we demand the factory to pay us 50 percent of our salary since we cannot use this amount to pay for our living,” he said.

Mr. Vanna said that fewer orders from big brands such as Gap had forced the factory to suspend production.

“The factory said that they did not have orders from certain buyers such as…Gap since February. Therefore they decided to suspend [operations] for one month.”

“If a factory shuts down, they have to pay compensation to us in compliance with the Labor Law before they close down their factory,” Mr. Vanna added.
read more.
Cambodia_Daily_logo

* Cambodian government under pressure over garment sector:

This week, representatives from some of the world’s largest clothing brands have been meeting with the Cambodian government and local manufacturers in a bid to improve the lot of workers in the country’s most important industry.

Speakers: Jyrki Raina, general secretary of the IndustriALL Global Union; Dave Welsh, country representative of the Solidarity Center.

CARMICHAEL: This week’s meetings were the second between government officials and some of the world’s leading brands since at least four garment workers were shot dead in January by the authorities during violent protests. The workers were seeking a rise in the monthly minimum wage from 100 dollars to 160 dollars.

Since January, dozens of people have been arrested and charged with criminal offences such as incitement and damage to property. In the largest such case, the trial of 23 workers and unionists wrapped up last week in Phnom Penh. A verdict in their case will be handed down on Friday.

Rights groups and some unions complain that the authorities are using the country’s pliant courts to crack down on industrial action within the 5.5-billion-dollar a year garment sector, a vital pillar of the economy that accounts for 80 percent of foreign exchange earnings.

The unremitting flow of bad news is why representatives from brands such as H&M, Puma and Inditex met on Monday with government officials. On Tuesday, they met with GMAC, the association that represents the hundreds of factories to which they subcontract their production, most of which is exported to the U.S. and the European Union.
read more.
RADIOAUSTRALIE

* Does the De-Facto Government Think It Can Afford to Lose Cambodia’s Largest Buyers?:

This week high level discussions took place between representatives of the de-facto government and major international brands sourcing Cambodian garments.

As the trial of the 23 approaches, the message communicated was clear: “due to [the] 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.” (Brand and union statement issued May 27, 2014)

Brands expressed their immediate concern that “the outcome of the judicial process for the detainees must be based on evidence and stands up to international scrutiny to build trust and confidence.” (As above)

Cambodian civil society, including the United Nations, is unanimous in its assessment that there is no evidence to support the charges against the 23.

The brands present at this week’s meeting were a delegation of the 30 signatories to letters delivered earlier this year. Based on consignee data, conservative estimates would place the purchasing power of these signatory brands at least 60% of the garment industry. This equates to approximately US$3.3 billion dollars annually, equal to almost one quarter of Cambodia’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP).
read more.
CLEC

* Cambodian Garment Workers Face Violence in the Struggle for aBetter Wage:

20140529 CLEC

After violent crackdowns on a garment workers’ strike on January 2-3, 2014, major brands are feeling the pressure from consumers to hold Cambodia accountable for the treatment of its workers.

We encourage international consumers to continue to react and to let the brands know that they will no longer stand for the injustice endured by Cambodian garment workers.
see video.
CLEC

* Brands warn problems could see them quit Cambodia:

Garment manufacturing is Cambodia’s most important sector, earning $5.5 billion in foreign exchange last year and employing 600,000 people. But recent failings have proved a PR disaster for global brands.

That is why representatives from 30 brands, including H&M, Puma, Gap Inc, Inditex and Levi-Strauss, sat down with senior government officials on Monday, their second such meeting this year. Also present at the closed-door meeting was the IndustriALL Global Union, an affiliation of more than 50 million workers in over 140 countries.

In a joint statement released late Tuesday, the brands and IndustriALL said they had told the government that consumer pressure in their home markets against serious rights abuses in Cambodia, as well as the sector’s ongoing instability, meant Cambodia was “at risk of losing its status as a strategic sourcing market, with an impact on future investment and growth.”

They also told officials that troops who opened fire on workers during violent protests in January, killing at least four, “should be brought to justice,” and warned they would not tolerate the authorities using violence to shutter peaceful strikes and demonstrations by workers.

In addition, they told the government that the current trials of workers and unionists “must be based on evidence and stand up to international scrutiny to build trust and confidence,” and called on the authorities to drop a swathe of lawsuits filed against unions and union leaders.

‘Not a living wage’
The demands represent a pivotal moment in Cambodia’s relations with international brands, which on Tuesday also met with representatives from the Garment Manufacturers’ Association in Cambodia (GMAC), the grouping of 400-plus factories to which the brands subcontract production.

Jyrki Raina, IndustriALL’s general secretary, told DW the central reason behind Cambodia’s worsening industrial relations was the low minimum wage of 100 USD a month.

“It’s not a living wage. And that is why people work 10-14 hours a day,” said Raina, who took part in the two days of meetings. “It’s very important to find a path now towards a living wage that covers the basic needs and makes it possible for people to have a life.”
read more.
DW

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* FreeThe23 and Steung Meanchey-two verdict: all convicted with sentences suspended:

This morning, the 25 arrested on January 2 and 3, and November 12, were convicted of a variety of charges with sentences of differing lengths but all sentences were suspended.

Vorn Pao (President of Independent Democracy of Informal Economy Association) was sentenced to 4.5 years, Theng Savoeun (Coordinator of Coalition of Cambodian Farmer Community) 4 years, Chan Puthisak (community leader from Boeung Kak Lake) 4.5 years, and Sokun Sambath Piseth (staff member at Center for Labor Rights of Cambodia) 4.5 years.

Lawyers are currently working to secure their release as soon as possible.

The trials at Phnom Penh Municipal Court started on April 25 and took place over five non-consecutive days with the case of the 10 men arrested at the Yak Jin factory finally coming to an end just after 8pm on May 22. On all the trial days supporters of the 25 were prevented from gathering in front of the court by roadblocks and a heavy police presence.
read more.
licadho

* Cambodian court gives suspended jail sentences to all 23 labor activists:

Cambodia’s Phnom Penh Municipal Court on Friday convicted 23 labor activists and workers of causing intentional violence and destroying property and sentenced them to between six months and four-and-a-half years in prison, but all jail terms were suspended, according to a verdict.

Vorn Pov, president of the Independent Democratic Association of Informal Economy, is among the convicts. He was given a suspended four-and-a-half years jail sentence and fined 2,000 US dollars.

The others received suspended jail terms between 6 months and four years, according to the verdict.

“They are found guilty of causing intentional violence and destroying property during clashes between police and protesters,” the verdict said.

Heavy security forces had been deployed around the court on Friday as hundreds of protesters gathered outside the court to hear the verdict.
read more.
GLOBALTIMES

* Freedom for activists and workers:

20140530 CLEC
Mr. Vorn Pao and Teang Savouen are on a car come from Prey Sar prison.
Photo by CLEC
.

Today the ‘FreeThe23’ and ‘Stung Meanchey-two’ are finally free men.

The 22 who had remained in prison were released just after 11am today and marched back to Phnom Penh together with around 500 of their supporters. They will now be reunited with their families.

Those who had not been released on bail spent more than 140 days in detention in CC3 and CC1 prisons. Their highly contested trials took place at the Phnom Penh Municipal Court over five non-consecutive days in April and May.
to read.
licadho

* 25 Found Guilty for Roles in Garment Protests; Sentences Suspended:

Twenty-five unionists, garment workers and bystanders were found guilty by the Phnom Penh Municipal Court on Friday for their involvement in three separate garment protest-related cases, but were handed down suspended sentences.

The 22 men who had not been bailed ahead of trial were ordered released from prison.

The first case related to a protest on November 12, 2013, when two teenagers were arrested after lingering near the fringes of an SL Garment Factory protest in Stung Meanchey. In early January, 23 unionists and garment workers participating in garment strikes were also arrested and summarily jailed.

The trials of those arrested in January were split in two: 10 people rounded up outside the South Korean-owned Yakjin factory were tried together, while 13 men were tried after being arrested on Veng Sreng Street on the outskirts of Phnom Penh.

Presiding Judge Keo Mony acquitted six of the 10 arrested at Yakjin of the charges of aggravated property destruction, but upheld the charge of causing violence for all the men. He meted out sentences ranging from between two-and-a-half to four-and-a-half years in jail. Four of the men were handed fines of 8 million riel each.
read more.
Cambodia_Daily_logo

* ‘The 23′ found guilty, released:

20140530 PPP
Human rights activists drag effigies representing the judge and prosecutor in homemade coffins through the streets surrounding Phnom Penh Municipal Court this morning ahead of the verdicts. Photo by Scott Howes.

Phnom Penh Municipal Court erupted in cheers this morning as judges announced the release of jailed unionist Vorn Pov and 22 others arrested during unruly garment wage protests in January of this year.

The release, as has become increasingly typical in such cases, was not without caveats.

All 23 were found guilty and given sentences ranging from one to four-and-a-half years, before those sentences were suspended.

The verdicts brought to an end a months-long drama that has loomed over the garment industry, and particularly over recent meetings between major brands and the manufacturers that supply them.

Presiding judge Keo Mony said yesterday that four of Pov’s cohorts were also slapped with fines of 8 million riel (about $2,000), but those were suspended as well.

“The Phnom Penh Municipal Court judge has decided to release the workers, including Vorn Pov,” Mony said yesterday. “Vorn Pov’s suspended sentence is four years and six months, and a fine of 8 million riel. The court will allow them to file an appeal within one month if they do not favour the court’s decision.”
read more.
PPP new

* Phnom Penh court frees 25 protesters:

Phnom Penh Municipal Court on Friday announced verdicts for 25 protesters arrested in violent clashes at Stung Meanchey, SL and Yakjin factories, and on Veng Sreng Street.  

All of them were freed by the Phnom Penh court. Their supporters and civil society welcome the court decision.

Judge Keo Mony sentenced the 25 protests from between six months to four years and six months in prison, but suspend their sentence, releasing them from imprisonment.

The court handed down four years and six month suspended sentence to unionists Vorn Pov, Theng Savoeun, Chan Puthisak and Sokun Sambathpiseth, but fined them US$2,000 each.

Monks, protesters as well as their supporters who were gathering outside the court welcome the court decision.
to read.
CAMHERALD

* CCHR welcomes the release of 25 protesters but strongly condemns their convictions:

The Cambodian Center for Human Rights(“CCHR”) welcomes today’s decision by the Phnom Penh Municipal Court of First Instance to suspend the sentences of the 25 human rights defenders, activists and protestors arrested during demonstrations
in November 2013 and early January 2014 in the Kingdom of Cambodia. 

However, CCHR strongly condemns the decision of the judges to convict them despite a complete lack of evidence, and serious violations of their right to a fair trial, as detailed by CCHR ahead of the verdict.
read more.
CCHR

* As Verdicts Loom in 25 Protest Related Cases, Acquittals Sought:

Verdicts will be handed down Friday in two garment protest-related cases that rights groups say were built on a weak body of evidence.

The two cases occurred months apart but followed a similar narrative: Garment workers fed up with their calls for a higher monthly minimum wage took to the streets. Rocks were then thrown in violent clashes with armed police, who ended up shooting bystanders or the protesting workers dead.

One of the clashes took place in Stung Meanchey on November 12, where police shot dead seller Eng Sokhom during a protest by SL Garment workers and arrested Men Sok Sambath, then 14, and Vanny Vanan, 17.

Then on January 2 and 3, the military police shot dead at least five protesters during garment strikes while 23 unionists, workers and bystanders were arrested and accused of violence and property damage.
read more.
Cambodia_Daily_logo

* Cambodian court convicts then frees more than 20:

20140530 UCAnews
Protesters gather around a pair of effigies meant to represent the judges and prosecutors involved in the case. (photo by Abby Seiff)

Nearly five months after their violent arrest and secretive imprisonment, more than 20 unionists, garment workers and bystanders walked free on Friday from Phnom Penh Municipal Court. All members of the group were found guilty but given suspended sentences which qualified them for immediate release.

The case involved 23 people arrested on two separate days during a January crackdown on garment strikes which saw at least five protesters killed and scores injured, as well as two teenagers – one just 14 – who were arrested during a November clash in which a bystander was killed.

All stood accused of a range of charges related to inciting or committing violence during the clashes, but all have maintained their innocence throughout a trial that spanned a month. Rights groups have called the charges politically motivated.

As the case dragged on, proceedings ranged from the farcical to the tragic. Prosecutors submitted video footage from previous, unrelated protests as evidence in their favor, while judges relied on photographs that captured nothing more than a crowd. At one point Vorn Pov – the most prominent of the group and head of the Independent Democracy of Informal Economy Association – collapsed on the stand due to health problems worsened by months of detention.
read more.
ucanews

* Phnom Penh Court orders Conviction with Suspended Sentences for 25 Workers and Activists:

We the undersigned civil society groups welcome the decision this morning of the Phnom Penh Municipal Court to suspend the sentences of the 23 men and two minors arrested on November 12 2013 and January 2 and 3 2014, thereby releasing the remaining 22 detainees.

However, we express our extreme disappointment at the convictions of all 25 and the heavy fines imposed on some of them, following what was to all independent observers a deeply flawed trial process.

Two of the 25 were arrested during violent clashes between security forces, workers and members of the public which put an end to a march by SL garment factory workers in November last year. The remaining 23 were arrested in early January during a lethal clampdown by mixed security forces to bring to an end a period of mass protest by garment workers and pro-opposition party supporters.

“While we welcome the court’s decision to release the 22, we have not seen justice here today,” said Heng Samorn, General Secretary of Independent Democracy of Informal Economy Association (IDEA).
“They were all still convicted following trials which in fact confirmed the near total lack of evidence against them.
The circumstances of the arrests and the fact that the trials were all held at the same time indicate that these cases were wholly political in nature. The aim was not to seek justice but rather to try and bring an end to popular protest and make people afraid to take to the streets to claim their rights.”

The events surrounding the arrests of the 25 involved the use of wholly disproportionate force by state authorities against civilians which resulted in at least five deaths and numerous injuries.
Almost all attempts by the defendants’ lawyers to introduce evidence of this violence during the trials were quickly suppressed by the judges and prosecutors. To date, no action has been taken to punish those responsible for the violence, a fact that was noted by Moeun Tola, Head of the Labor Program at the Community Legal Education Center (CLEC):

“We are extremely happy that these men, who have become a symbol of the struggle of Cambodian workers to receive a minimum wage of $160, will be able to return to their families. However, it remains deeply disappointing that there has still been no justice for the dead and injured of 12 November and January 2 and 3 and that no attempts have been made to find or bring charges against those responsible.”
read more.
licadho

* Cambodian court frees 25 charged with garment strike offences:

A Cambodian court found 25 people guilty on Friday of acts of violence during strikes by garment workers but all were given suspended sentences and freed, a ruling likely to be welcomed by global manufacturers operating in the country.

The deadly crackdown on the strikes and working conditions in the garment sector have attracted international criticism.

Representatives of global brands including Hennes & Mauritz AB, Gap Inc, Puma SE and Levi Strauss & Co [LEVST.UL] visited Cambodia this week to tell the government their buying would depend on stability, transparency and the rule of law, according to IndustriALL Global Union, a labor group based in Switzerland that attended the talks.

The Phnom Penh Municipal Court judges convicted the workers, trade unionists and protesters of intentional violence including damage to public property during strikes in November last year and January 2014.
They were given suspended jail terms of between one and 4-1/2 years.
(…)

Levi’s has cut its sourcing from Cambodia in the past year due to concerns about political instability and human rights violations in the country, the group said in an email to Reuters.

“We reduced our sourcing in Cambodia to reduce supply chain risk and ensure delivery. We hope to see swift progress on the outstanding labor and human rights concerns so our sourcing can return to previous levels,” Levi’s said.

Jyrki Raina, general secretary of IndustriALL, said in a statement after the talks with the government: “For the first time global brands have acknowledged that they are prepared to cost in the price of higher salaries in Cambodia.” Ahead of the verdicts, Raina had said the companies and unions were concerned about the fate of those appearing in court and that Cambodia “was at risk of losing its status as a strategic sourcing market, with an impact on future investment and growth”.
read more.
reuters

* U.N., labor agency welcome release of Cambodian labor activists:

The Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) and the International Labor Organization (ILO) on Friday welcomed the release of the 25 labor activists and garment workers, but voiced concerns over the convictions of them.

“We welcome the release today of the 25 men and boys who had been arrested and tried following the workers’ (violent) protests in November and January,” the agencies said in a joint statement.

A Cambodian court on Friday morning convicted the 25 persons of causing intentional violence and destroying property and sentenced them to prison terms between six months and four-and-a-half years, but all jail terms were suspended, according to a verdict.

All 25 are currently at liberty, with the 22 who had been held in pre-trial detention promptly freed on Friday afternoon.

“OHCHR and ILO are concerned about the criminal conviction of all 25 individuals, in view of the apparent procedural shortcomings in all trials and the lack of evidence establishing direct responsibility of the individuals for the actions of which they were nevertheless found guilty,” the statement said.
read more.
CHINAORG

* Cambodian court gives suspended jail sentences to all 23 labor activists:

Cambodia’s Phnom Penh Municipal Court on Friday convicted 23 labor activists and workers of causing intentional violence and destroying property and sentenced them to between six months and four-and-a-half years in prison, but all jail terms were suspended, according to a verdict.

Vorn Pov, president of the Independent Democratic Association of Informal Economy, is among the convicts. He was given a suspended four-and-a-half years jail sentence and fined 2,000 US dollars.
The others received suspended jail terms between 6 months and four years, according to the verdict.

“They are found guilty of causing intentional violence and destroying property during clashes between police and protesters,” the verdict said.

Heavy security forces had been deployed around the court on Friday as hundreds of protesters gathered outside the court to hear the verdict.

Am Sam Ath, a senior investigator for the rights group Licadho, which provided legal aid to some of the defendants, welcomed the court’s decision.
“We are pleased with the verdict that gave suspended jail sentences to all defendants,” he told reporters, adding that all the defendants would be released soon after the verdict.
read more.
GLOBALTIMES

* Brands’ eyes on verdicts of 23:

20140530 PPP court-caseA prison truck arrives at Phnom Penh Municipal Court last week with people who were detained during violent strikes in January on the capital’s Veng Sreng Boulevard. Photo by Heng Chivoan.

As 23 men accused of violent crimes stemming from demonstrations earlier this year brace for a verdict against them today, civil society groups are alleging that no credible evidence was presented by the prosecution during the entire trial.

Nearly five months after soldiers arrested 10 men at a protest in front of Yakjin garment factory on January 2, and 13 others on Veng Sreng Boulevard a day later, the 23, as they’ve come to be known, face sentencing on crimes ranging from incitement to intentional violence. At least four workers were shot dead by state security forces during the deadly garment strikes.

“The consensus among civil society is there’s not one shred of evidence that can be used to convict any of the 23 of the crimes they’re accused of,” said Joel Preston, a consultant from the Community Legal Education Center, which is providing legal representation for some defendants.
read more.
PPP new

* CCHR calls for the acquittal of “ the 23”and their immediate release:

Ahead of the verdict for the “23,” which will be delivered on 30 May 2014,
the Cambodian Center for Human Rights (“CCHR”) calls for their acquittal and their immediate release.

CCHR’s monitoring of their hearings revealed a complete lack of any incriminatory evidence, serious concerns relating to the independence of the court, repeated violations of the defendants’ fair trial rights and the immediate need for medical care for some of the detainees.
read more.
CCHR

* One Factory Strike Ends, Another Continues:

Management at the Ocean Garment factory in Phnom Penh, which has temporarily suspended operations due to a lack of orders, said they are awaiting a Ministry of Labor decision on how much they need to pay workers as about 1,000 employees continued to protest outside the Pur Senchey factory Thursday, demanding at least 50% of their monthly pay.

Currently, the factory is offering just $15 per month until production resumes.

“We had to suspend [production] from May 26 to June 26 since there were no orders from buyers, including Gap,” Chin Sophat, an administrator from the factory said Thursdy, adding that he didn’t know why the orders had diminished.

“The issue is being discussed…and we are waiting for the Ministry of Labor to decide how much to pay them during the suspension,” he said.

Huon Vanna, a representative from the Collective Union of Movement of Workers, said talks will also be held among the workers to decide what action to take if their demands are not met.
read more.
Cambodia_Daily_logo

* BetterFactories Media updates 27-30 May 2014, ILO says gov’t moving backward with draft union law:

* to read in the printed edition The Phnom Penh Post:
2014-05-27 Brands back wage bump unionist

2014-05-28 New law will stifle us unions

2014-05-29 ILO attacks trade union law

* to read in the printed edition The Cambodia Daily:
2014-05-27 Brands, unions say gov’t moving slowly on wage talks
2014-05-28 Global brands say unrest putting garment sector at risk
2014-05-28 Talks to begin over controversial trade law
2014-05-29 Boy caught up in protests faces 11 years in jail

2014-05-29 ILO says gov’t moving backward with draft union law

2014-05-29 Ocean Garment workers on strike after factory halts operations
2014-05-30 Nearly 100 workers collapse in mass garment factory fainting
2014-05-30 One factory strike ends, another continues

BetterFactories Media updates overview here.
BF NEW

* Beautiful Clothes, Ugly Reality:

Following January’s violent crackdown on Cambodian garment workers, a group of women decided they wanted a new way to draw attention to the workers’ struggle; something different where workers could express for themselves what was really going on.

They decided on a fashion show where workers would model the brand-name clothes they make everyday in the factories, but they’d do it with a very clear message to the brands – stop the violence, stop the exploitation, and pay a decent wage.
The show weaved together fashion, dance, music, and performance art; at one point men dressed in makeshift ‘Joe Fresh’ riot gear took to the catwalk before reenacting January’s violent crackdown and the death of a worker on stage.
see video.

Since the brutal crackdowns on Cambodian garment worker protests in January, the media attention has been dominated with stories of the exploitation and violence that these workers, mostly women, face daily.

What’s missing are the stories of how so many of these women are so often finding the bravery and ingenuity to stand up to this oppression. That’s why the recent garment worker event, “Beautiful Clothes, Ugly Reality” was so amazing to see.
read more.
HEATHER

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* 25 Found Guilty But Released From Prison:

20140531 CD
Labor leader Vorn Pao, center, waves to his supporters after being released from Prey Sar Prison’s Correctional Center 1 in Phnom Penh on Friday. (Siv Channa)

The Phnom Penh Municipal Court on Friday convicted 25 people on a raft of charges stemming from three separate garment protests, but the 22 men whose bail had been denied ahead of the trials had their sentences suspended and left the court as free men.

The verdicts bring to an end a months-long legal battle that has placed a spotlight on government efforts to suppress unrest in an industry that employs more than 600,000 people, mostly young women. The unions behind the strikes complain of unlivable wages, a lack of state protection for workers’ rights and factory efforts to limit the freedom to assemble and organize.

What began as a tense morning outside the court—where barriers once again kept protesters at bay—ended in jubilation after the verdicts were rendered just before 9 a.m., as supporters hugged each other and shouted, “We have been successful!”

It did not take long for the orders of release to be carried out. The 22 men were transported in a van from the municipal court to Prey Sar prison’s Correctional Center 1, where they were released before noon. The newly released prisoners were met by about 600 supporters and had jasmine garlands placed around their necks. They swiftly made their way by tuk-tuk in the direction of the Pur Senchey district office, only to be blocked by about 20 district security guards.

“You are dogs, you are bad people,” the marchers shouted. “You do not love your Cambodian people.”

Vorn Pao, a labor leader and the most prominent of the defendants, spoke of the international significance of the trial before being blessed by a group of monks after returning to the headquarters of the Independent Democracy of Informal Economic Association (IDEA), which he leads.

“Because of pressure from the Cambodian people, markets and international unions to improve the nation’s reputation, the court suspended my sentence,” he said.

“But I will discuss with my lawyer [about appealing the conviction], to get 100 percent justice,” he said.
read more.
Cambodia_Daily_logo

* Human rights group welcomes the release of 25 protesters:

The Cambodian Center for Human Rights (“CCHR”) welcomes today’s decision by the Phnom Penh Municipal Court of First Instance to suspend the sentences of the 25 human rights defenders, activists and protestors arrested during demonstrations in November 2013 and early January 2014 in the Kingdom of Cambodia (“Cambodia”).

In its statement, CCHR said however, CCHR strongly condemns the decision of the judges to convict them despite a complete lack of evidence, and serious violations of their right to a fair trial, as detailed by CCHR ahead of the verdict.
read more.
CAMHERALD

* Detained Factory Workers in Cambodia Are Released:

A Cambodian court on Friday convicted almost two dozen factory workers and human rights activists for instigating violence during protests early this year but then released them under suspended sentences.

The Phnom Penh Municipal Court ruled that the 23 defendants, who had been detained since their arrests in January, had served enough time behind bars and were free to return home.
Human rights groups welcomed their release but criticized the convictions, which carried suspended sentences ranging from one to four and a half years.

They said the ruling was politically motivated to quiet criticism from both the government’s opposition and from Western clothing brands that are made in Cambodia.
The authorities cracked down on the January protests that had been called to demand a higher minimum wage for garment factory workers, leaving at least four people dead. The crackdown drew criticism from human rights groups and drew attention to the conditions of the factory workers, who manufactured clothing for several global brands, including the Gap, H&M and Adidas.
to read.
NYT

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* HRW Calls For Cambodia To Quash Convictions Of 25 Activists, Workers:

The Cambodian government should quash the convictions of 25 human rights activists, factory workers, and others for lack of evidence, Human Rights Watch said today.

On May 30, 2014, the Phnom Penh municipal court convicted the defendants in three cases of committing violence during recent demonstrations and imposed suspended sentences of up to four-and-a-half years. While none received prison time, their convictions incur penalties such as a prohibition on serving as union leaders.

“The release of 25 people jailed for political reasons is welcome, but their convictions should be quashed along with their criminal records,” said Brad Adams, Asia director at Human Rights Watch. “These politically motivated convictions should not be allowed to stand and provide a false legal pretext for restricting their basic rights.”

Cambodia’s donors should publicly denounce the convictions and call for the defendants to be exonerated. Donors should together demand an end to the ruling Cambodian People’s Party control of the police and courts.
read more. & read more.
eurasiaHRW

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* Cambodia: Garment workers parade beautiful clothes, ugly realities:

About 300 garment workers, NGO staff, civil servants and media staged a “fashion show” at the United Sisterhood Alliance-Worker’s Information Center (US-WIC) in Phnom Penh on May 25, called “Beautiful Clothes, Ugly realities”.

As the Cambodian government still bans its opponents from using Freedom Park for protests, the fashion show was seen as a new, creative way of getting across our message.

Realising that if they are silenced by fear and don’t take action, there is no possibility of change for in their lives, Cambodian garment workers confidently took to the catwalk carrying giant US$100 notes which they then tore up.

They then placed the torn strips into different boxes labelled “food”, “water”, “electricity”, “utility”, “transport” and “health” to make the point they are not paid enough to survive.

To meet their basic needs and to support their families, Cambodian garment workers have to work long hours of overtime.
read more.
GREENLEFT

* Convicts Emerge From Prison With Activist Zeal:

Pang Vanny says that before this year, he never thought of joining protests or fighting for labor rights.

Five months in prison changed that.

Mr. Vanny was arrested on January 3, when military police cracked down a violent demonstration on Veng Sreng Street—part of nationwide garment worker protests demanding a minimum monthly wage of $160.

At least five people were shot dead and more than 40 were injured during the clash, both of which Mr. Vanny denies taking part in.

“It is an injustice what they did to us,” said Mr. Vanny, a soft-spoken 38-year-old who has been working in the garment sector for 10 years. “I will join future protests because of what happened to me.”

Mr. Vanny was among 23 men who were locked up in prison and charged with intentional violence and property damage during the January protests, which dovetailed with demonstrations being led by the opposition CNRP.

The Phnom Penh Municipal Court handed down a verdict on Friday, convicting all 23 men with suspended sentences, allowing them to leave the court as free men with criminal records.
read more.
Cambodia_Daily_logo

* High-profile cases stick to a script:

Analysis
When a court on Friday granted freedom to 23 activists and workers arrested during a violent garment strike in January, another chapter in what has become a familiar tale was written.

Over the past two years, that tale has involved a series of high-profile cases against government critics, including Yorm Bopha and fellow land rights activists known as the “Boeung Kak 13”, as well as independent broadcaster Mam Sonando. And rarely has it deviated from the same plot.

Rights defenders have been arrested, swiftly convicted and imprisoned, or held in pre-trial detention and convicted later. Charges against them have been widely criticised, both here and overseas, as being “trumped up”.

Eventually, after trials or appeals in which little evidence has been presented and the charges even sometimes changed, the activists have been released to cheering supporters.
read more.
PPP new

* EU welcomes release of 25 protesters:

European Union welcomed the release of 25 protesters including prominent  trade union leader Vorn Pov.

The 25 unionists and garment workers were handed suspended sentences in last week’s hearing after they were sentenced to between four months and four years and a half in jail on charges of violence and property damage during the strikes in January 2014 and November 2013.
read more.
CAMHERALD

* Global unions welcome release of Cambodian protestors:

Global unions have welcomed the release of 23 Cambodian wage protestors arrested following demonstrations in January but remain concerned at the severity of the court verdict and the lack of a fair trial.

After considerable pressure and campaigning both locally and internationally by IndustriALL Global Union, the ITUC and UNI Global Union, as well as support from NGOs and fashion brands, the 23 workers were released following a Phnom Penh court verdict on Friday 30 May.
(…)
Ath Thorn, President of IndustriALL affiliate garment workers’ union, C.CAWDU, said:
“This victory is the first step. The trade union movement will continue to fight for a minimum wage of US$160 for garment and textile workers and to ensure the protection of workers’ rights, decent work and dignity.”
read more.
INDUSRIall

* Victory: All 23 released from jail in Cambodia:

On Friday 30th May, the court convicted and then released the 23 garment workers and unionists who were arrested during the violent crackdown of the wage protest in Cambodia last January.

Their sentences were suspended after huge pressure from international campaign groups and unions.
Garment workers across Cambodia went on strike after the Cambodian Government failed to listen to it’s own committees advice and raised the minimum wage to just USD95.  Far lower than the USD 160 workers and trade unions were demanding.
read more.
CCC

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* Medical trips await 9 of 23:

Nine of the group of 23 workers and labour activists who were released from custody and given suspended sentences on Friday over January’s garment employee protests will receive medical care in Thailand, rights group Licadho said yesterday.

A number of the men were beaten by security forces during the demonstrations, which saw authorities clash with protesters, and say they received poor medical care while in police custody over the past few months.

Last month, a garment worker who was severely beaten by police on Veng Sreng Boulevard on January 3 died, with his family blaming head trauma inflicted by authorities months before.

Am Sam Ath, senior investigator at Licadho, said that the nine men would be sent to a hospital in Bangkok for check-ups and treatment to ensure they are not masking more serious conditions.
read more.
PPP new

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* Out of jail, garment worker sees uncertain future:

When Pang Vunny walks around his rented room just off of Veng Sreng Boulevard, he waves his hand from side to side in front of him, like a man feeling his way in the dark.

Ever since he was arrested and badly beaten on January 2 – as one of 23 detained over two days of unruly wage protests during which at least four demonstrators were shot dead – Vunny’s eyesight has been in decline.

Though he takes medicine, provided by rights group Licadho, he is unsure whether it can cure the ailment, or whether the blurry shapes he is still able to make out will soon disappear.

“I am worried I will go stone blind if they are not cured,” he said.

Vunny and the 22 others were freed from prison last Friday – albeit with convictions and suspended sentences – but freedom doesn’t lessen the worry over his livelihood and his siblings, whom he supports. His hazy vision means he can’t work in the garment factory.

“I am innocent, [but] they beat me like that and put me in jail, and sentenced me to three years’ imprisonment,” he said. “How about the soldiers who beat me? Why don’t they put them in jail, too?”
read more.
PPP new

* After jail, Pov gains following:

Before he was arrested in January, Vorn Pov and the union he created were not widely known outside of activist circles.

But when he emerged from Phnom Penh’s CC1 prison on Friday, he walked away as one of the highest-profile unionists in the country, and a minor celebrity.

According to Pov, his Independent Democracy of Informal Economy Association (IDEA) has recruited more than 1,000 new members since he was beaten and dragged away by soldiers outside the Yakjin garment factory amid worker protests on January 3.

That his group has since burgeoned in popularity is not surprising. The 23 protesters and activists who were imprisoned during January’s demonstrations, and finally released on Friday with suspended sentences, became a cause célèbre, drawing widespread attention from local and global unions, rights groups, brands, embassies and media.

At the centre of the firestorm surrounding the group was Pov, who underwent surgery late last year and was said to be suffering from serious health problems after the beating.

“A lot of people are paying attention to my union now, because they know that I was unjustly put behind bars,” Pov, who launched IDEA in 2005 to represent informal workers ranging from tuk-tuk drivers to recyclables collectors and now has more than 10,000 members, said yesterday.
read more.
PPP new

Am Sam Ath, senior investigator at Licadho, said that the nine men would be sent to a hospital in Bangkok for check-ups and treatment to ensure they are not masking more serious conditions.
read more.
PPP new

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* 19 of Released 23 Return to Prison for Prayers:

Labor leader Vorn Pao, along with 18 other members of “the 23” garment workers, unionists and protesters released from prison last week, returned Wednesday to the correctional center where they were detained for more than five months to pray to the spirit that helped secure their freedom.

The group held the traditional ceremony, known as Lea Bamnon, in the prison campus, offering up chicken, pigs and fruits to the shrine of Yeay Mao, a powerful local spirit.
“We gave thanks to Yeay Mao for helping lobby the court to get us out of prison,” Mr. Pao said.
“I am very happy I was freed from prison and I will continue to demand proper living wages for the garment workers.”
read more.
Cambodia_Daily_logo

* When justice is a prisoner:

20140606 PPP Opinion-Page_Vorn-Pov
Independent Democracy of Informal Economy Association president Vorn Pov speaks from inside a police truck as it enters Phnom Penh Municipal Court last month. Photo by Heng Chivoan.

In January, the government engaged in a violent crackdown on growing labour and opposition protests in and around Phnom Penh, resulting in the death of five people.

Military forces and police also beat up protesters, and arrested 23 of them over the course of two days. Those arrested, including four prominent human rights defenders, are now known as “the 23”.
The violence and arbitrary nature of their arrests, their five-month detention and the recent court verdicts finding them guilty illustrate the intolerance of the government towards anyone threatening its economic interests or its legitimacy.

Last Friday, judges announced the 23 had all been found guilty of acts of violence and related charges, and sentenced them to between one and four and a half years’ imprisonment.
However, all sentences were suspended and the 23 were released the same day, in part due to growing pressure from international brands, international unions and international and local civil society.
Brands such as H&M, Gap and Levi Strauss are important buyers for Cambodian factories and represent crucial economic interests, with the garment industry’s exports exceeding $4 billion in the first nine months of 2013 alone.

While it was heart-warming to see the mothers, fathers, wives and friends of the 23 cry with relief after learning that their loved ones would be set free and reunited with their families, their release should not overshadow the core issue that these verdicts represent and that is symptomatic of Cambodia’s judiciary: a lack of independence used by the government as a tool to suppress opposition voices.
read more.
PPP new

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* Gov’t to meet unions for salary talks:

Union members of the Ministry of Labour’s Labour Advisory Committee (LAC) will meet on Monday for a garment industry wage discussion focusing on ideas raised at a workshop in April.

The invitation from Labour Minister Ith Sam Heng was sent to the seven LAC unions on May 30. Items on the agenda for the meeting include setting a date to begin garment industry minimum wage talks for next year and establishing a deadline for finalising 2015’s minimum wage.

“The [International Labour Organization] has recommended we prepare a system of negotiation of minimum wage, and set a clear date for these negotiations every year,” said Ken Chhenglang, acting president of the National Independent Federation Textile Union of Cambodia. “This would avoid protests and disappointment.”

In December, the LAC approved an industry minimum monthly wage raise from $80 to $95. Sam Heng later unilaterally raised it to $100.
to read.
PPP new

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* Confidence for plan low:

Union officials and the garment sector’s factory association said yesterday they supported a new program meant to enhance relations between employers and employees, but remained sceptical of how effective it would be.

In a ceremony yesterday, the Ministry of Labour inaugurated the program, which entails training sessions and meetings about conflict resolution, in an attempt to avoid disputes from escalating into strikes.

“We don’t expect 100 per cent [success],” said Ath Thorn, president of the Coalition of Cambodian Apparel Workers’ Democratic Union. “I’m not sure that [employers are] committed.”

Ken Loo, secretary-general of the Garment Manufacturers Association in Cambodia, said the idea for the program is a good one but will not work if unions don’t cooperate.
read more.
PPP new

* Labour rights in Cambodia – reflections and questions:

Phnom Penh in late May is populated by exotic trees and palms, with the amazing frangipani in full flower.
It is humid and hot with just a gentle breeze near the Mekong river and the hum of fans stirring the warm air.
This weather builds to an almost impossible point just before the rains come and cool things down.

The situation facing Cambodia’s garment and footwear industry also heated up to an almost impossible level in the last few months, with an equivalent break in the weather urgently needed.

The recent history of Cambodia is a dramatic one. The Vietnam War spilled over into the region including Cambodia, where the Khmer Rouge perpetrated genocide from 1975-1979, practically dismantling the state. Once the Khmer Rouge were ousted by Vietnam and following a brief period under the UN from 1992-93, Cambodia emerged with a nascent democracy.
A military coup in 1997 has led to a period of enforced stability with the Cambodian People’s Party in power since then.

It is in this context that the garment and footwear industry has developed from a standing start to one with more than 500 factories, 500,000 plus workers and annual export value of US $5 billion (the largest export sector in the country).
The industry has been supported by preferential trade conditions, initially with the US and now with Europe, which have drawn in global suppliers from China, Taiwan and others in the region. Cambodia now forms an important part of many global brands’ supply chains for denim, knitwear and footwear.

While the government has had its critics, including from a human rights perspective, the growth of the economy and the changes in Phnom Penh since I first came here in the late ‘90s are remarkable. However in January this year, the death of at least four demonstrating workers at the hands of the police, with many others injured and subsequently 23 detained without bail, has cast a serious shadow over this success story.

To make matters more complicated, the contested result of a national election in late 2013 provides a tense political backdrop to industrial relations issues and workers’ concerns such as pay, hours and better benefits.
read more.
ETHICALtrade

* More Protests in Cambodia after Garment Factory Shuts Down, Doesn’t Pay Salaries:

In late May, 30 major clothing brands and unions met with Cambodian government officials to discuss the growing labor unrest in the country’s garment industry.

The visit, a follow-up to a meeting held just after the January, union-led strike that saw four people killed by military police and 25 protesters arrested and imprisoned, was a warning of sorts: If this keeps up, apparel companies might soon start sourcing elsewhere, putting Cambodia at risk of losing a significant portion of its $5 billion garment trade.

Not two weeks later, things aren’t looking much better.

On Tuesday, some 400 workers began protesting outside the Hongkong Yufeng factory in Phnom Penh, which produces garments for Gap, Adidas and other international brands. They had arrived to find the building shut down and its owner gone, leaving employee salaries for May unpaid.

“Today is payday for the workers, and since the employer did not have the money to provide to the workers, he ran away yesterday evening,” said Liv Tharin, president of the Independence of Democratic Youth Trade Unions, in The Cambodia Daily.

This is hardly an isolated incident. Also on Tuesday, a strike at the T&K garment factory—begun after employers refused a $0.50 daily lunch allowance for workers—ended when its owners threatened to cut salaries.
Last month, 800 workers at Ocean Garment Factory protested when their employers announced a month-long shutdown with limited pay. And Open Development Cambodia’s news page offers a laundry list of labor unrest headlines.
read more.
promomarketing

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* Cambodian minimum wage activists “won’t be silenced by weapons and bullets”:

There is an arc that stretches over the past 10 years and connects, in blood, the fight for a living minimum wage for Cambodia’s 600,000 garment workers.

At one end is the 2004 assassination of Free Trade Union leader Chea Vichea, who had been pushing for an increased minimum wage, but was shot dead in broad daylight by a helmeted gunman on Thursday 22 January, 2004, as he bought a newspaper in Cambodia’s capital, Phnom Penh.

A decade later, on Friday 3 January 2014, five people were shot dead in Phnom Penh by military police officers during a second day of garment strikes for a US$60 increase to the US$100 minimum wage on a dusty stretch of road that is home to garment workers and the factories in which they make big-brand clothes.

In these protests, 23 unionists and workers were rounded up and summarily incarcerated in a remote prison bordering Vietnam awaiting trial on charges that included incitement, aggravated intentional violence and the destruction of public property. Two were bailed.

After five months, during which the rest of the men languished in prison, the trials began.
Outside the barricaded court, supporters held signs that read: “The world is watching,” while others scuffled with police.
On Friday 30 May, all 23 were found guilty, but released from prison on suspended sentences.

Of these, the president of the Independent Democracy of Informal Economic Association (IDEA), Vorn Pao, has become a symbol of the minimum-wage movement—something he remains committed to despite ill health, compounded by being beaten during his arrest, and a suspended sentence hanging over his head.
read more.
EQUALtimes

* Plan to ‘end factory strife’:

A new programme has been launched to improve industrial relations between garment factories and unions.

The initiative announced yesterday was put together by the International Labour Organization (ILO), European clothing giant H&M, and a number of other partners.

The initiative hopes to “improve the unions’ ability to genuinely represent workers” by offering training to both factories and unionists, and to “improve communication and negotiation skills,” the announcement read.
(….)

The garment industry has been hit by a series of strikes in the past year, and Joel Preston, a consultant with the Community Legal Education Centre, was sceptical that the programme would catch on.
“Previous examples of similar efforts have failed pretty miserably. I think it would be fantastic, but I don’t think it’s very likely,” he said on Friday.

Preston pointed out that to make the new industrial-relations programme work, unions and factory owners would have to act in good faith.
“That’s a reflection of factory owners wanting and needing to make a profit at almost any cost, and the first ones to bear that cost are almost always the workers,” he said.
read more.
PPP new

* H&M, ILO Form New Industrial Relations Initiative:

In an effort to bring stability back to the country’s embattled but crucial garment industry, the Ministry of Labor has joined forces with the International Labor Organization (ILO) and Swedish clothing giant H&M in a campaign for unions and factories to sign direct agreements to improve industrial relations.

The initiative is being funded by H&M—the world’s second-largest clothing retailer by sales—the Swedish government and Swedish trade union IF Metall, and comes after a year in which the industry has been plagued by a record-setting number of strikes and a nationwide protest for higher wages, which started in late December and was lethally suppressed in early January.

“The project will provide training and awareness-raising to eliminate unlawful practices, including bribery and corruption, and promote enterprise-based approaches based on international standards, including in collective bargaining and gender equality,” the ILO said in a statement on Friday.
read more.
Cambodia_Daily_logo

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* After Meeting, Garment Sector a Step Closer to Yearly Raises:

The tri-partite Labor Advisory Committee (LAC) made some progress in coming up with a new way to set the minimum wage for the country’s volatile garment industry Monday, agreeing to announce raises at the end of each year and to start paying the raises at the beginning of the next.

Some unions, however, pressed for an exception for this year.

The LAC, composed of representatives from the government, factories and unions, met to follow up on an April workshop at which the government and unions agreed the basic wage should be adjusted annually by taking into account both economic and social impacts.

The process for coming up with a new wage-setting system was set in motion after a wave of garment worker strikes, triggered late last year when the LAC decided to raise the sector’s monthly minimum wage from $80 to $95 instead of the $160 that some unions were demanding.
read more.
Cambodia_Daily_logo

* Wage group agrees on January 1 raises:

20140617 PPP Garment-Protest
A demonstrator holds a sign while shouting chants last year in Phnom Penh during protests to demand a higher minimum wage. Photo by Vireak Mai.

The group in charge of determining the national minimum wage for the garment sector yesterday agreed to increase salaries annually on January 1, determined by discussions that are to take place in the final quarter of each preceding year, officials said.

The agreement was signed during a meeting of the Labour Ministry’s Labour Advisory Committee (LAC), attended by representatives of the ministry, trade unions and the Garment Manufacturers Association in Cambodia.

“We stand in unity together to protect the best interests of all within our system,” Minister of Labour Ith Sam Heng said after signing the agreement.

Until now, minimum wage decisions were an ad hoc affair, with the LAC visiting the issue at irregular intervals and using no particular formula in determining wage scales.

Such an approach became apparent late last year when the LAC raised the minimum monthly wage from $80, which included a $5 health bonus, to $95, before Sam Heng unilaterally raised it to $100.
(….)
“We had a good result today, because we now have clear dates for minimum wage implementation,” said Ath Thorn, president of the Coalition of Cambodian Apparel Workers’ Democratic Union. “Before, we did not have an exact time frame for discussing the minimum wage.”
read more.
PPP new

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* Garment Wage Plan Set; Some Unions Hold Out:

The Labor Advisory Committee (LAC) on Monday approved a detailed schedule leading up to a pay raise for the country’s restive garment sector by January 2015, though a few unions continued to hold out for a raise in October and said protests might resume if they were refused.

The LAC, made up of government, factory and union representatives, approved a draft of the schedule two weeks ago. At Monday’s follow-up meeting, they made the plan official and added a few details.

According to a statement from the LAC, the government, factory owners and unions will all hold separate, internal meetings this month to start discussing next year’s raise. They will follow that with a series of bilateral meetings in August, a tri-partite meeting in September and finally a vote in October before the new minimum wage takes effect January 1.

Emerging from the meeting, Labor Minister Ith Sam Heng said three of the LAC’s 23 members present Monday voted against the plan and that there had been some “tension” in the room “because each side tried to protect its interests.”

The minister did not elaborate on who the holdouts were or the exact nature of the tensions, but—responding to reporters’ questions—said unions unhappy with the schedule were free to protest as long as they did so legally.

“We do not ban all those people from protesting because it is their right, but they must respect the law,” he said.

Ath Thorn, president of the Coalition of Cambodian Apparel Workers of Democratic Union, said he and Chheng Lang, deputy president of the National Independent Federation of Textile Unions in Cambodia, were among the three who voted against the plan. The vote was carried out by secret ballot.
read more.
Cambodia_Daily_logo

* Wage raise decision in Oct: gov’t:

The controversial matter of next year’s garment sector minimum wage will be finalised in October and put into effect on January 1, a Ministry of Labour committee decided yesterday.

At a meeting of the Labour Advisory Committee (LAC) at the Labour Ministry, Minister of Labour Ith Sam Heng advised unions and employers to begin their own internal discussions about wages in July. Talks between the two groups will take place at the Ministry of Labour in August, he said.

“After August, we will have another meeting between unions, employers and the Ministry of Labour to discuss the minimum wage in September,” Sam Heng said. “In October, we will discuss and make the final decision of how much the . . . wage will be increased in 2015.”

The LAC’s decision in December to set 2014’s minimum wage at $95 per month, later changed by Sam Heng to $100, caused a nationwide strike led by unions who demanded their monthly floor wage be $160. The strike ended in deadly violence in early January.
to read.
PPP new

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* With wages lower than China’s, Cambodia sees hope for more garment exports to Washington:

Wages in Cambodia are about one-third the level of those paid in China. And that’s part of why Cambodian Minister of Commerce Chanthol Sun hopes to win more connections between his country’s economy and that of Washington state.

“We’re hoping by furthering the ties and relationships, we can build on those relationships and have further commerce between the state of Washington, and Cambodia,” he said during a visit to Seattle this week.
(….)

Garment imports could be one potential area of growth. Washington is home to a number of large garment importers, including Union Bay, Nordstrom (NYSE: JWN), Tommy Bahama and REI. Cambodia already employs 600,000 people in its garment industry, and exports $5 billion in garments every year.
read more.
PUGETsound

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* Six unions call for pay, acquittals:

Union leaders made another appeal for the Cambodian government to raise the minimum wage to $160 and rescind convictions of 25 workers arrested during deadly demonstrations in November and January.

In a press statement released yesterday, leaders of six local labour unions called on international unions to help the Cambodian government in giving in to the demands. The statement also calls for equal representation in the Ministry of Labour’s Labour Advisory Council and the withdrawal of all lawsuits against unionists.

It reads: “Despite strong support from involved partners to resolve the situation, the government has delayed from January until June 2014 and still has not resolved the problems.”
read more.
PPP new

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* Six months on, no justice for shootings:

Six months ago today, security forces opened fire on garment workers protesting for a doubling of their minimum wage on Phnom Penh’s factory-lined Veng Sreng Boulevard.

At least five people were killed in what rights groups called the worst state violence against citizens in 15 years.

Half a year on, no results of any government investigation have been released. No security, police or military personnel have been charged, and the victims’ families say they continue to wait for justice or compensation, hopes of which have all but slipped away.

“So far, the government has done nothing to take care of me; no one has come to see me. I have no idea what I am going to do,” said 21-year-old Chiv Phanith, whose husband was killed during the crackdown on protesters, many of whom were throwing rocks and Molotov cocktails.

“My husband had just joined to demonstrate, and he should not have been punished with death. I have become a widow and the government should take care and compensate me. I don’t know whether I will get justice or not.”

A government investigation into the violence wrapped up in February and was never publicly released.
read more.
PPP new

* Labor committee details schedule for wage talks: report:

The Labor Advisory Committee has asked unions and employers to start separate internal talks on wages this month under a schedule it approved in June, an industry source says.

In a report late Wednesday, Fibre2fashion.com said the 28-member committee had agreed that the talks would be followed by discussions between the two sides in August.

The government is scheduled to join the talks in September, the report said, adding that any vote on the issue would take place in October with new wages taking effect on January 1.

The committee, comprising members of all three groups, agreed last year to raise the minimum monthly wage from $80 to $95.
Following protests by garment factory workers seeking $160 a month, the minimum monthly wage was later raised to $100.
to read.
CAMHERALD

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* Garment worker crackdown – six months on:

For “the 23”, life after prison is filled with painful memories and worries about their future.

Six months ago, on January 2 and 3, they were arrested during a violent crackdown on protesting garment workers that killed four and left one missing.

Five weeks after the Phnom Penh Municipal Court convicted but released the 23, they are coming to terms with what this will mean for their lives and for the future of their campaign to raise the minimum average wage to $160 per month.
see video report.
PPP new

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* Cambodia garment workers struggle to survive:

20140712 NEWAGE

After a 10-hour shift stitching clothes for western brands, Cambodian factory worker Ry Srey Bopha walks to her tiny shared room, eats leftovers, then sleeps on the floor.

Like many of Cambodia’s 6,50,000 garment workers, who are overwhelmingly women, Bopha’s days are monotonous and exhausting, and her diet is poor.
She rarely sees her five-year-old daughter, who is being raised by an elderly grandparent in the countryside.
‘Life in the garment factories is very difficult,’ she told the AFP. ‘But I need the money so I just try to be patient.’
Once hailed as a model for sweatshop-free manufacturing, Cambodia’s booming garment sector has seen working conditions deteriorate as the number of factories has swelled.
As money and orders have flooded into the industry in recent years, new factories have emerged ‘that either don’t know what legal requirements are… or don’t care,’ said Jason Judd, a technical specialist with the International Labour Organisation’s Better Factories Cambodia programme.

‘They’re not paying attention to legal compliance. They’re focused on making money,’ he said.
From a violent strike in January, in which four workers died after police fired live ammunition at protesters, to repeated mass faintings on the factory floor, the once praised sector has had its reputation dented, alarming some top western brands.
But workers say that despite the publicity surrounding the protests and some nominal wage increases since, little has changed.

“We’re a pitiful part of this garment industry,’ Bopha said, adding that she had recently passed out on the job after inhaling fumes from chemicals used on the clothes.
‘Even if we’re sick and cannot work they cut out salaries. We work when we’re ill.’
Bopha works six days a week, starting her shift at 7am and often finishing late at night as she does extra overtime to make ends meet.
‘Sometimes, we have to work overtime all night,’ she said, adding that she usually took home around $130 a month of which she sent $50 home to her family.
‘I often eat leftover rice as I need to save money,’ she said, adding her only hope was that her daughter would have a better life than her.

Many female workers say conditions in the factories are such that they are forced to choose between their family and their job.
‘I can’t keep my daughter here as there is no childcare at the factory,’ said worker Ton Sam Ol, who has a month-old baby.
Ol planned to ask her mother to care for the baby or ‘I’ll have to quit,’ she told AFP while breastfeeding the tiny infant.
Ol was given a small amount of paid maternity leave but many factories have taken to employing female workers on short-term contracts to avoid paying such benefits, union leaders say.
read more. & read more. & read more.& to read. & to read. & to read. & to read.
& to read. & to read. & to read.
NEWAGEnew MY sinchew BUSINESSRECORDER globalpost THEHINDU daily star bdMALAYonLINE
FREEMALAYSIATODAY bangkokpost gulftimes

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* Getting on the same page:

20140714 PPP Workers-Factory-protest
Garment workers rally in front of the Ministry of Labour in December last year during a protest demanding a minimum wage rise. Photo by Heng Chivoan.

In what is shaping up to be the first of several pivotal garment wage talks, unions are to meet for the first time today to discuss the amount they should request for next year’s minimum wage – but labour leaders and observers say coming to a consensus will be difficult, if not impossible.

Up to 50 representatives of pro-government, pro-opposition, pro-factory and independent unions are scheduled to gather at the Green Palace Hotel in Phnom Penh at 8am. The event was organised by the Cambodian Labour Confederation (CLC) and several international labour organisations.

The meeting comes a week before an official two-day workshop of the Ministry of Labour’s Labour Advisory Committee (LAC). Floor wages at the Kingdom’s garment and shoe factories stand at $100 per month.

“The only question is how strong the unions can work together,” said Moeun Tola, head of the labour program at the Community Legal Education Center (CLEC). “How can the unions maintain their solidarity?”

Following discussions this month, union leaders will meet with factory representatives in August, followed by a September forum at the Ministry of Labour that will include government officials. The LAC, comprising government officials, industry representatives and union representatives, is scheduled to set next year’s minimum wage in October, which will then go into effect on January 1.

Without divulging the lowest wage his organisation could accept, CLC president Ath Thorn said $160 per month is reasonable, but that the figure could go as low as the $140 range. But the wide variety of interests in play poses obstacles.
read more.
PPP new

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* Unions to stick with push for $160 wage:

The majority of union representatives attending a minimum wage forum yesterday favoured pushing for a $160 floor wage for Cambodia’s garment sector next year.

“Why don’t we set [minimum wage] at $160? That’s what we’ve been advocating for,” asked Pav Sina, president of the Collective Union of Movement of Workers.

Few of the government or factory-affiliated unions invited to the meeting organised by the independent Cambodian Union Confederation (CLC) attended yesterday’s event, and those who showed up remained silent when the wage issue arose.

Sina and others seemed to take little note of CLC president Ath Thorn asking about a back-up offer in case those attending next week’s official conference held by the Ministry of Labour’s Labour Advisory Committee (LAC) pushed for less.

“Why don’t we ask them to do it in 2014? Why let them exploit us longer?” Workers Friendship Union Federation president Seam Sambath said.
read more.
PPP new

* Trade Unions Approve Minimum Wage, Draft Law Proposals:

Representatives from 25 trade unions Monday sent a request to the Ministry of Labor seeking several changes to a controversial draft union law and asking that a new $160 monthly minimum wage for the country’s volatile garment sector take effect in October.

Garment factory owners say the current preponderance of unions makes it nearly impossible to effectively negotiate with workers. Unions not aligned with the ruling CPP fear the new law would further tighten what they consider an already restrictive environment for independent trade groups.

“With this law, employers will be able to violate workers’ rights legally if some provisions are not changed,” Ath Thorn, president of the Coalition of Cambodian Apparel Workers Democratic Union, said during Monday’s meeting. “Unions have the right to complain already, so why do we need this law?”

Mr. Thorn, who heads the largest independent trade union in the country, would like to see the government scrap its plans for the law altogether. The request the unions passed Monday, however, simply recommends several changes to the draft.
read more.
Cambodia_Daily_logo

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* After deal, unions expect support:

News of an end to a year-long political deadlock has labour union leaders believing the opposition party can bring their interests to parliament, but a lack of follow-through could cost the Cambodia National Rescue Party vital support from one of its key interest groups.

Different union leaders said yesterday they hope that once the CNRP takes its seats and takes charge of its many committees, the newfound influence will translate into a reinvigorated push for a higher minimum wage and for investigations into fatal strike shootings.

“I would say there’s potential [for labour reform] and there’s also an obligation,” said Dave Welsh, country director of labour rights NGO Solidarity Center. “If we recall what happened in January, what was a labour issue turned into a political issue.”

During a 10-day strike in December and January, CNRP members – including senior lawmaker-elect Mu Sochua and opposition leader Sam Rainsy – encouraged unionists to strike until the minimum monthly wage was raised to $160. Workers wearing stickers reading “$160” joined CNRP supporters in massive gatherings at Freedom Park and in marches around Phnom Penh.

The strikes and marches, however, ended in an abrupt series of crackdowns, punctuated by the shooting deaths of at least five garment workers on the capital’s Veng Sreng Boulevard on January 3.
(…)

“Workers still demand a wage increase and the government and garment factories still have not resolved this, but with a two-party system, we can get closer to $160,” said Ath Thorn, president of the Coalition of Cambodian Apparel Workers’ Democratic Union (C.CAWDU), the Kingdom’s largest independent garment union. “Politicians can have more influence on workers and workers can have more influence on politicians.”

Collective Union of Movement of Workers president Pav Sina and Free Trade Union president Chea Mony both said their continued support of the CNRP at least partially hinges on its promise to raise the minimum wage in the garment sector to at least $160.

“The largest priority for the [C.CAWDU] is to find out [what happened] and find justice for the people,” said Kong Athit, C.CAWDU’s vice president, referring to deadly shootings at garment protests in November and January and the arrest and conviction of 23 people.
read more.
PPP new

* After NEC Reform, Rainsy Says Higher Wages are Top Priority:

CNRP leader Sam Rainsy said Wednesday that a higher minimum wage for garment workers and civil servants would be the opposition’s top legislative priority—after reconstituting the National Election Committee (NEC)—when it takes the 55 National Assembly seats it has been boycotting for the past year.

The CNRP has been refusing to take its seats in protest over what it says were rigged national elections last July but is expected to have its lawmakers-elect sworn in by the King in the coming days after reaching a deal with the ruling CPP on Tuesday to reform the NEC.

But even an optimistic Mr. Rainsy conceded that getting any of the opposition’s legislative agenda past the CPP—which will hold on to a majority of the assembly’s 123 seats as well as its standing committee, which decides what laws make it to the floor—will be much easier said than done.

“All our promises we will push through,” he said. “Whether we will succeed or not…we want our objectives to be the law, especially the minimum wage, to end the modern form of slavery.”

A $250 monthly minimum wage for the country’s civil servants and $150 for its garment workers were two of the CNRP’s key campaign pledges leading up to the elections, and among the most popular with voters.
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$160 We Need

$160

30140903

* Union Leaders Charged Over Nationwide Protests:

At least five of the country’s most prominent union leaders have been charged in connection with massive garment sector strikes and demonstrations in December and January and have been called to appear in court this month, according to court officials and documents obtained Tuesday.

Nationwide protests calling for a $160 minimum wage began on December 25 and ended on January 3 when military police fired into a crowd of demonstrators on Phnom Penh’s Veng Sreng Street, killing at least five people and injuring dozens.

Pav Sina, president of the Collective Union of Movement of Workers, one of the unions that led the protest, said he was served his summons Tuesday morning.

The summons, signed by Investigating Judge Chea Sok Heang, says the court’s investigation into the case was completed on July 2. It says the judge decided to “charge Pav Sina, a male, with intentional violence under aggravated circumstances, intentional damage under aggravating circumstances, [threatening] to inflict damage related to a certain problem and using means to block public traffic.”

Phnom Penh Municipal Court clerk San Sakny confirmed that the court had issued documents summoning six others, including least four more union leaders, over the same charges. She said the papers had been given to local authorities who have been asked to pass them on to those charged.

“The court has processed the same charges for seven people including Rong Chhun, Ath Thorn, Pav Sina, Yaing Sophorn and Chea Mony,” she said, adding that she could not remember the other names. “They will all appear to answer to the court this month.”

Rong Chhun is president of the Cambodian Confederation of Unions, Ath Thorn is president of the Coalition of Cambodian Apparel Workers’ Democratic Union, Yaing Sophorn is president of the Cambodian Alliance of Trade Union and Chea Mony is president of the Free Trade Union.

The union leaders face up to 14 years in prison if found guilty of the charges.
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Cambodia_Daily_logo

* Charges in strike violence surface:

20140903 PPP workers-garment-protest-veng-sreng
Protesters gather at a burning improvised roadblock on Veng Sreng Boulevard in Phnom Penh during clashes with police that turned deadly in January.
Photo by Pha Lina.

A union leader has been charged with causing violence and destroying property during a garment strike that ended in security forces shooting dead at least five people on January 3, a court summons obtained yesterday shows.

Pav Sina, president of the Collective Union of Movement of Workers (CUMW), must appear in Phnom Penh Municipal Court for questioning on September 12 over the strike on the capital’s Veng Sreng Boulevard, the summons says.

“I, Chea Sokheang, an investigating judge … charge Pav Sina with intentional violence in aggravating circumstances, intentional damage and threats to damage and make an obstacle to traffic in front of the Canadia Industrial Park … between December 25, 2013, and January 3, 2014,” it reads.

Sina, who faces arrest if he does not attend the hearing, denied the charges and said court officials had told him that leaders of five other unions involved in the December and January minimum wage strikes would also be summonsed.

One of them, Ath Thorn, president of the Coalition of Cambodian Apparel Workers Democratic Union (C.CAWDU), said he had not yet received a summons but expected to.

“I saw a complaint when I went to the court last week,” Thorn said. “I saw the summons; [an official] showed it to me.”

Thorn alleged that the Garment Manufacturers’ Association in Cambodia was behind the complaint.

“GMAC are representing more than 170 [factories],” he said.
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PPP new

* Yakjin factory under review:

20140903 PPP yakjin-protest
A man is beaten by authorities on a dirt road in front of Yakjin garment factory in Phnom Penh’s Por Sen Chey district in January after a protest turned violent.

South Korean garment giant Yakjin Trading Corp has engaged a top international labour rights expert to conduct a review of its factories in Cambodia, one of which was a flashpoint during labour strikes earlier this year that saw dozens arrested and at least five people shot dead by authorities.

Both Cambodian and international unions have lobbied the Carlyle Group – a global asset manager that took a 70 per cent stake in Yakjin through a holdings company just weeks before authorities violently suppressed protests outside Yakjin’s Phnom Penh factory on January 2 – to take action.

The crackdown sparked bigger protests in Phnom Penh the next day, leading to the fatal shootings.

The United States’ largest pension fund, a major investor in Carlyle, has also taken a leading role, according to labour activists in the US.

As a result, Yakjin dispatched Gare Smith, a lawyer who served as the top human rights official at the US State Department during the Clinton administration and a former vice president at Levi Strauss & Co, to Phnom Penh for a week in mid-August.
read more.
PPP new

* Workers’ wage to rise to USD 110 per month in 2015:

Som Aun, president of the Cambodian Labour Union Confederation, said that employers of garment and footwear factories agreed to raise minimum wage to USD 110 per month for 2015 after a meeting Tuesday.

“Garment sector investors were paying attention on wage increase for factory workers despite increase of new factories in provinces and along national road two, three, four and five,” Aun said.

“Labour Advisory Committee has implemented procedure which was agreed by employers, unionists and government for raising wage once every year for workers depending on the economic situation,” he said, adding that the minimum wage of USD 110 per month will be implemented from January, 2015.
read more.
CAMHERALD

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* Donors called on to pressure gov’t after unionists charged:

An influential rights group is urging donors to Cambodia to apply pressure on the government concerning the case of six labour union leaders accused of playing an active role in violent demonstrations earlier this year.

In an open letter posted on its website on Wednesday, Human Rights Watch (HRW) says donors should tell the government to end efforts to prosecute leaders of unions behind a nationwide garment strike over wages that lasted from late December to early January. Soldiers shot dead at least five people during a demonstration on January 3, as protesters set fires and threw Molotov cocktails at authorities.

The six union leaders face charges of intentional violence.

“Cambodian authorities are pursuing trumped-up charges against labor activists in an apparent attempt to get them to abandon demands for better pay and conditions,” HRW Asia director Brad Adams says in the statement. “This is just the latest government effort to scare activists and the political opposition into dropping plans to use protests to advance their causes.”
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PPP new

* Labor Unions Soften Minimum Wage Demand:

Labor unions have agreed to lower their demand for next year’s minimum wage hike in the all-important garment sector as a vote on the new wage approaches.

However, they are yet to significantly narrow the gap between the figure being put forward by the government and factories.

The Labor Advisory Committee (LAC), made up of representatives from the unions, factories and government, is scheduled to vote in October on a new minimum wage that will take effect in January. Bilateral meetings among the three parties have been ongoing since August.

At the latest meeting between unions and factories on Monday, the unions agreed to drop their original demand—which topped out at $177—to $150.

Som Aun, director of the National Union Alliance Chamber of Cambodia, said the figure was a fair compromise between the needs of the workers, who must make a living, and those of the factories, which need to turn a profit.
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Cambodia_Daily_logo

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* Urgent call to action for Cambodian garment workers! :

20140909 I-ALL cambodia_action_day_17_september

IndustriALL Global Union, the ITUC and UNI Global Union are asking affiliates to join Cambodian unions in a Global Day of Action on 17 September to demand a living wage for garment workers.

In early October, the Labour Advisory Committee in Cambodia is to announce a new minimum wage for workers in the garment, textile and footwear industry, which generates US$5 billion in revenue for the country.

At this critical juncture, a coalition of Cambodian garment unions has called for international solidarity to support their demands for a raise in the minimum wage from US$100 to US$177 a month.

IndustriALL, the ITUC and UNI are asking affiliates to take part in the global day of action by organizing mobilizations outside Cambodian embassies and presenting a letter to the ambassador. As there are only a few Cambodian embassies around the world, affiliates can also send a letter directly to the Cambodian government.

Garment workers in Cambodia deserve to live in dignity and receive a fair wage. Poverty wages mean that many workers are undernourished and compelled to work exhausting overtime hours to survive.
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INDUSRIall

* Seven Unions Plan Campaign for $177 Wage as Revision Looms:

With the government set to decide on a new minimum wage next month, a group of seven unions say they are set to launch a campaign to rally support around their demand for a $77 increase to the current floor wage of $100.

Beginning on September 17, the unions will distribute T-shirts and stickers bearing “$177,” hold speeches and discussions during lunch breaks and petition global brands for support, union leaders said.

More than 100,000 leaflets will be disseminated to workers at up to 300 factories while about 2,000 “$177” T-shirts will be donned by union activists, who will also spend part of their lunch break holding banners, said Ken Chheng Leng, acting president of the National Independent Federation Textile Union of Cambodia.

Yaing Sophorn, president of the Cambodian Alliance of Trade Unions, said the unions would petition brands including Adidas, Gap and Puma, who source from Cambodia’s factories.
read more.
Cambodia_Daily_logo

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* Unions threaten mass demo:

20140910 PPP
 A man beats a drum as garment workers hold placards and chant at a protest at the Ministry of Labour in Phnom Penh earlier this month. Photo by Pha Lina.

The garment industry will devolve into chaos if any of the six labour union presidents summonsed to court for questioning are taken into custody, independent union leaders said.

Several of the six major union leaders called to Phnom Penh Municipal Court for questioning for alleged crimes connected to violent protests in early January said yesterday they will call for members to hold massive demonstrations across the Kingdom if the cases move forward.

“We will encourage the workers to push, and support us if we are arrested because we are always protecting them,” said Yang Sophorn, president of Cambodian Alliance Trade Union.

Phnom Penh Municipal investigative judge Chea Sokheang last week told the Post that he sent summonses for the leaders of six independent labour unions who encouraged a 10-day nationwide strike in the garment sector after the Ministry of Labour set the industry’s minimum wage at $100, rather than the $160 unions pushed.

Sophorn, Chea Mony, Ath Thorn, Rong Chhun, Pav Sina and Morm Nhim will be called for questioning on charges of intentional violence with aggravating circumstances. If convicted, each could face up to five years in prison.

Collective Union of Movement of Workers president Pav Sina, who is scheduled for questioning on Friday, said his arrest would disrupt a large number of factories.
read more.
PPP new

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* Global call to back $177 local wage:

A group of international unions is organising a Global Day of Action later this month to show support for Cambodian garment workers’ demands for a $177 monthly minimum wage.

IndustriALL Global Union, the ITUC and UNI Global Union are backing a national campaign, organised by Cambodian unions, by calling for affiliates to gather outside Cambodian embassies on September 17 and present a letter to the ambassador, or to send it directly to the government, demanding the wage hike.

The “major objective is to ensure living wages for all workers in the global garment industry”, said Jyrki Raina, general secretary of IndustriALL Global Union. Cambodia’s image has been “tarnished by poverty wages, long working hours … and deadly violence. A number of brands have reduced their orders … because of the instability caused by the lack of a functioning bargaining system.

“We talk about win-win solutions, because living wages will increase purchasing power, economic growth and help create new jobs,” he added.
to read.
PPP new

* Support Cambodian Garment Workers in their Fight for Fair Wages! $177 NOW!:

We, the undersigned, stand in solidarity with Cambodian garment workers and unions in their demand for an immediate increase to their minimum wage to $177(USD) a month.

We demand that companies such as H&M, The Gap, Adidas, Walmart, Puma, Levi’s, C&A, and Zara pressure their factory suppliers in Cambodia to respect workers’ rights and make immediate meaningful improvements to working conditions.

Cambodian garment workers are forced to work for poverty-level wages while the companies they manufacture for make billions of dollars in profits. Four major brands, H&M, GAP, Walmart, and Adidas, for example, had combined revenues of roughly $608 billion in 2012, an amount almost 43 times Cambodia’s entire GDP.

The legal minimum wage for garment workers is a miserable $100 per month. Thousands of workers have fainted at their sewing machines due to malnutrition, overwork, heat, poor ventilation, and fumes from chemicals used in the manufacturing process.

Earlier this year, when over 200,000 Cambodian workers stood up to demand a fairer wage, authorities shot four workers dead in the streets and threw 23 union activists in jail. Consumers don’t want clothes tainted with exploitation and repression!

We therefore support Cambodian union calls for the following:
read more & please sign.
workersunitecanada

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* Union Leader to Appear in Court Over Demonstrations:

The first of six prominent union heads facing charges that include causing intentional violence and damage said he will appear at the Phnom Penh Municipal Court today for questioning related to his alleged role in garment sector wage protests in December and January.

Pav Sina, president of the Collective Union of Movement of Workers, said he would follow a summons to appear at the court to be questioned by Judge Chea Sokheng. He added that the timing of the court summonses, in the midst of negotiations over a new minimum wage, was evidence that the court was being used to intimidate the union leaders.

“The court just wants to threaten and prevent us from the $177 campaign” for a raise to the current $100 minimum wage, he said. “They will put me under the court’s supervision.”

Mr. Sina said Morn Nhim, president of the National Independent Federation Textile Union of Cambodia, is also summoned to appear this afternoon. He predicted that they would be prevented from taking part in campaigns for a higher floor wage in the coming weeks.

Free Trade Union leader Chea Mony on Thursday received his summons to appear at the court on September 15 over the same charges.
read more.
Cambodia_Daily_logo

* Scenes from a kangaroo court:

Before the government launches fresh investigations into the actions of garment factory union leaders, it must address the shortcomings I observed in the last round of trials.

The clear violations of a right to a fair trial that took place during those proceedings left me troubled about the treatment of the accused and the state of the rule of law in Cambodia – a feeling that has since been aggravated by the recent passage of three “judicial reform laws” that infringe on the independence of the judiciary, in contravention of international standards and Cambodia’s constitution.

At first glance, Phnom Penh Municipal Court looked like a regular courthouse: A judge sat elevated on a wooden bench.
The lawyers wore the appropriate robes and everyone was required to stand when the judge entered the room.
By the end of the day, though, it was clear that the process was a pretense and that the accuseds’ convictions were a foregone conclusion.

I was in Cambodia in May on behalf of the International Commission of Jurists to observe a day of the trials – which I had already been following – of 24 men and one boy arrested between November 2013 and January 2014 in connection with labour strikes and garment worker protests in Phnom Penh, seeking a higher minimum wage.

The government’s response was uncompromising. Gendarmes used ammunition and tear gas against the protesters, killing four and injuring nearly 40 more.
The four men who were killed were all factory workers aged between 24 and 26.
Three of them were married with young families.
read more.
PPP new

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* Union boss vows to carry on:

A union leader charged with violence and destroying property during garment protests that ended with security forces shooting at least five people dead on January 3 has vowed to ignore a court order not to engage in union activity.

Pav Sina, president of the Collective Union of Movement of Workers, appeared in Phnom Penh Municipal Court yesterday over the incident at Veng Sreng Boulevard. Sina had said that his union members would strike and hold protests if he was arrested.

“Although I was prohibited by court from meeting with workers, organising or leading any demonstration, I will not stop,” Sina told journalists outside the court.

He said he would participate in a nationwide union campaign for a $177 per month minimum wage to begin on Wednesday, which has been declared a global day of action to demand a living wage for all garment workers.
read more.
PPP new

* Union Boss Put Under Court Supervision:

Pav Sina, president of the Collective Union of Movement of Workers, was placed under judicial supervision by the Phnom Penh Municipal Court on Friday for his alleged role in garment sector protests in December and January, some of which turned violent before being lethally suppressed by government forces.

The ruling comes just days before the planned launch of a campaign by Mr. Sina and other unions to demand the minimum wage in the garment sector be raised from $100 to $177, set to begin on September 17.

Investigating Judge Chea Sokheang, citing charges of intentional violence, threats, destroying property and obstructing traffic, ruled that Mr. Sina would be monitored by the court and could not join any type of public gathering until his trial, a date for which has not been set, the union leader said after being questioning.

“The ruling means that I cannot go out of the country. I cannot join a rally, protest or any gathering and I have to report to commune police once a month,” Mr. Sina said after emerging from the questioning.

Court clerk San Sakny confirmed that Mr. Sina had been placed under judicial supervision, but said she could not recall further details of the judge’s ruling.

Speaking to reporters outside the court, Mr. Sina said that the court’s ruling was a clear attempt to stifle the planned minimum wage campaign, which comes ahead of a new minimum wage announcement due in October and currently being negotiated by the government, unions and factories.
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20140826 CLEC

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map of Asia

An overview of articles 23 May 2014- now

HEADLINES

20140523
* New charges as trial wraps
* Court Concludes Two Trials Against 23 Garment Protesters
* Global unions and brands to meet Cambodian government for critical talks
* Clothing retailers challenge Cambodian factory conditions

20140524-25
* Eight unionists arrested for leading protest in Takeo
* Factory workers show support for arrested unionists
* Gov’t Officials Prepare for Second Round of Talks With Brands
* US Army Shuts Down Website Cited in HRW Report

20140526
* Workers Turn Models on Political Catwalk
* Stay away from factory, court tells unionists
* More Unionists Charged on Eve of Brand Meeting
* Takeo court releases eight C.CAWDU unionists after questioning
* Cambodian officials meet with buyers from global brands on garment issues

20140527
* Brands back wage bump: unionist
* Brands, Unions Say Gov’t Moving Slowly on Wage Talk
* Cambodian officials meet with buyers from global brands on garment issues
* BetterFactories Media updates 23-26 May
* Arbitrary arrest and judicial harassment of eight members of Apparel Workers’ Union
(CCAWDU)
* Brands ready to incorporate higher wages in Cambodia

20140528
* Global Brands Say Unrest Putting Garment Sector at Risk
* New law will stifle us: unions
* Talks to Begin Over Controversial Trade Law

20140529
* ILO attacks trade union law
* ILO Says Gov’t Moving Backward With Draft Union Law
* Ocean Garment Workers On Strike After Factory Halts Operations
* Cambodian government under pressure over garment sector
* Does the De-Facto Government Think It Can Afford to Lose Cambodia’s Largest Buyers?
* Cambodian Garment Workers Face Violence in the Struggle for aBetter Wage
* Brands warn problems could see them quit Cambodia

20140530
* FreeThe23 and Steung Meanchey-two verdict: all convicted with sentences suspended
* Cambodian court gives suspended jail sentences to all 23 labor activists
* Freedom for activists and workers
* 25 Found Guilty for Roles in Garment Protests; Sentences Suspended
* ‘The 23′ found guilty, released
* Phnom Penh court frees 25 protesters
* CCHR welcomes the release of 25 protesters but strongly condemns their convictions
* As Verdicts Loom in 25 Protest Related Cases, Acquittals Sought
* Cambodian court convicts then frees more than 20
* Phnom Penh Court orders Conviction with Suspended Sentences for 25 Workers and Activists
* Cambodian court frees 25 charged with garment strike offences
* U.N., labor agency welcome release of Cambodian labor activists
* Cambodian court gives suspended jail sentences to all 23 labor activists
* Brands’ eyes on verdicts of 23
* CCHR calls for the acquittal of “ the 23”and their immediate release
* One Factory Strike Ends, Another Continues
* BetterFactories Media updates 27-30 May
* Beautiful Clothes, Ugly Reality

20140531
* 25 Found Guilty But Released From Prison
* Human rights group welcomes the release of 25 protesters
* Detained Factory Workers in Cambodia Are Released

20140601
* HRW Calls For Cambodia To Quash Convictions Of 25 Activists, Workers

20140602
* Cambodia: Garment workers parade beautiful clothes, ugly realities
* Convicts Emerge From Prison With Activist Zeal
* High-profile cases stick to a script
* EU welcomes release of 25 protesters
* Global unions welcome release of Cambodian protestors
* Victory: All 23 released from jail in Cambodia

20140603
* Medical trips await 9 of 23

20140604
* Out of jail, garment worker sees uncertain future
* After jail, Pov gains following

20140605-06
* 19 of Released 23 Return to Prison for Prayers
* When justice is a prisoner

20140611
* Gov’t to meet unions for salary talks

20140612-13
* Confidence for plan low
* Labour rights in Cambodia – reflections and questions
* More Protests in Cambodia after Garment Factory Shuts Down, Doesn’t Pay Salaries

20140614-15
* Cambodian minimum wage activists “won’t be silenced by weapons and bullets”
* Plan to ‘end factory strife’
* H&M, ILO Form New Industrial Relations Initiative

20140617
* After Meeting, Garment Sector a Step Closer to Yearly Raises
* Wage group agrees on January 1 raises

20140621-23
* With wages lower than China’s, Cambodia sees hope for more garment exports to Washington

20140624-25
* Six unions call for pay, acquittals

20140701
* Garment Wage Plan Set; Some Unions Hold Out
* Wage raise decision in Oct: gov’t

20140703
* Six months on, no justice for shootings
* Labor committee details schedule for wage talks: report

20140708
* Garment worker crackdown – six months on

20140712
* Cambodia garment workers struggle to survive

20140714
* Getting on the same page

20140715
* Unions to stick with push for $160 wage
* Trade Unions Approve Minimum Wage, Draft Law Proposals

20140724
* After deal, unions expect support
* After NEC Reform, Rainsy Says Higher Wages are Top Priority

20140903
* Union Leaders Charged Over Nationwide Protests
* Charges in strike violence surface
* Yakjin factory under review
* Workers’ wage to rise to USD 110 per month in 2015

20140905
* Donors called on to pressure gov’t after unionists charged
* Labor Unions Soften Minimum Wage Demand

20140909
* Urgent call to action for Cambodian garment workers!
* Seven Unions Plan Campaign for $177 Wage as Revision Looms

20140910
* Unions threaten mass demo

20140911
* Global call to back $177 local wage
* Support Cambodian Garment Workers in their Fight for Fair Wages! $177 NOW!

20140912
* Union Leader to Appear in Court Over Demonstrations
* Scenes from a kangaroo court

20140913
* Union boss vows to carry on
* Union Boss Put Under Court Supervision

latest tweets (& news)

Convention on the Rights of the Child
Universal Declaration of Human Rights

I wonder who they are
The men who really run this land
And I wonder why they run it
With such a thoughtless hand

What are their names
And on what streets do they live
I'd like to ride right over
This afternoon and give
Them a piece of my mind
About peace for mankind
Peace is not an awful lot to ask
    David Crosby

I wonder who they are
The people who are buying these clothes
I'd like to know what they've paid for it
How much the makers have paid for this
Fairer income is not an awful lot to ask
Better working conditions is not an awful lot to ask
    A. Searcher

For more and other (labour) news you can follow on twitter: @asearcher2