Thirty global clothing brands — including Canada's Lululemon — have signed an open letter to Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen demanding that his government look into the deaths of four garment workers following a police crackdown on a protest earlier this month. The protesters had been striking since December 24 over wages.
"The use of deadly force against protesting workers will not result in long‐term industrial peace and jeopardizes Cambodia’s position as a stable sourcing location for international brands," the letter states. "We strongly support the United Nation's [sic] request that the Royal Government of Cambodia launch a prompt and thorough investigation into the events of 2 and 3 January 2014."
The move follows an earlier statement condeming the violence from labour rights groups and trade unions from several countries, including Canada's Maquila Solidarity Network.
“This is really signalling that brands expect action,” Lynda Yanz, executive director of the Maquila Solidarity Network, told the Toronto Star. “We really hope that Canadian brands will step up to the plate now.”
Lululemon is the only Canadian company to sign the letter; other signatories include Adidas, Levi's, Gap and H&M.
In addition to demanding an investigation into the violent crackdown on protesters, the letter insists that the government respect the rights of 23 union members detained in an undisclosed location following the protests. "Failure to take such actions constitutes serious interference with civil rights in general and trade union rights in particular," the letter says.
The brands call for the govenment to respect the rights of protesters to strike peacefully, and to introduce a legal framework recognizing union rights. They also put their support behind the issue that set off the protests in the first place: wages.
The protesters had been demanding that the minimum wage be doubled to $174 per month. Although the letter stops short of endorsing an actual wage, it urges the government to "honor previous commitments to institute a methodologically sound and inclusive process for determining the minimum wage."
The brands have asked for a Feb. 3 meeting with Hun Sen, whose party retained power in July following disputed elections, to discuss the issues.
"Here in Cambodia we’re back to a totally fundamental issue and that is that of wages," the Maquila Solidarity Network's Yanz told the Star. "Workers simply can not afford to live on the wages being paid. A whole sector is mobilizing.”
Via Toronto Star