Levi's and Gap Garment Workers Strike in Cambodia
By Sopheng- Cheang 23 May 2012
PHNOM PENH, Cambodia—Workers at a large Cambodian garment factory that makes clothes for Levi’s, Gap and other well-known international brands are striking for more pay and better working conditions.
More than 5,000 workers from the Singaporean-owned SL Garment Processing (Cambodia) Ltd. failed to reach an agreement with their employers on Tuesday to end an 11-day strike.
Ath Thon, director of the Coalition of Cambodian Apparel Workers, said workers are demanding an increase in their base pay of US $61 a month for eight-hour days, six days a week.
He said they want a $5 salary hike and an extra $25 a month for transportation and housing.
SL Garment’s website says it makes clothes for more than two dozen international labels that include J. Crew, Old Navy, Banana Republic, H&M and Levi’s, whose website in turn lists the company as a supplier.
Cambodia’s garment industry is the main foreign exchange earner for the poor Southeast Asian country. Its garment exports in 2011 were worth about $4.3 billion.
“We will not stop our strike until our problems are solved,” said Teng Ry, 24, one of thousands picketing the factory on the outskirts of Phnom Penh.
He said workers were regularly required to work on their one day off a week or denied sick days and ordered to work up to 16-hour shifts.
Long shifts are compensated with overtime pay but factory owners are not respecting Cambodian labor law by requiring employees to work against their will, he said.
Eah Chip Eang, the personnel manager for SL Garment Processing, said he regretted that a bargaining session with worker representatives, union officials and social affairs ministry officials failed to reach an agreement.
He accused the union representative of refusing to negotiate, and said the workers’ demands were too much for the company to accept, even though the demand for $25 for transportation and housing had been reduced to $10.
He also denied that his company forces workers to work against their will and up to 16 hours per day, while acknowledging that some do work overtime.