Arlington, VA—The six leading North American trade associations representing apparel and footwear brands and retailers, including the American Apparel & Footwear Association (AAFA), the Canadian Apparel Federation (CAF), the National Retail Federation (NRF), the Retail Council of Canada (RCC), the Retail Industry Leaders Association (RILA), and the U.S. Fashion Industry Association (USFIA), sent an open letter Wednesday to government and industry stakeholders in Cambodia urging an immediate end to the violence and protests regarding Cambodia’s minimum wage.
“Our industry is committed to ensuring that all the products that they produce, source and sell are manufactured under lawful and humane conditions,” the letter said. “As part of this commitment, we are committed to promoting the safety and security of workers in our supply chains.”
Solutions Needed for Wage Dispute
Violence has erupted in the Southeast Asian country for several weeks when workers went on a nationwide stripe demanding a doubling of the minimum wage to $160 a month—the government offered $100 a month. About 500,000 Cambodian are employed in the garment industry, the country’s biggest export earner.
As part of the call to end the violence and hostility, the associations called on all stakeholders to immediately return to civil and good faith negotiations to permanently resolve the situation. To prevent future unrest, the associations also called on stakeholders to develop a regular and predictable wage review mechanism.
“These actions will not only promote both the short and long-term health and stability of the Cambodian garment and footwear industries, but these actions will also enable the Cambodian garment and footwear industry to maintain the strong relationships it has with our member companies,” the letter stated.
Several major international clothing companies, such as H&M, Adidas, Gap, Columbia Sportswear, Puma and Levi Strauss, had signed a joint letter decrying violence against workers.
“We strongly oppose any form of violence, and urge the Royal Government of Cambodia to drive negotiations among stakeholders to peacefully resolve this dispute,” noted Laura Wilkinson, a spokeswoman for Gap Inc.
Cambodia exports about $5 billion in garments and footwear annually, but workers say they cannot live on the current minimum wage of $80 a month.
The Garment Manufacturers Association in Cambodia, which represents factories, originally said a wage increase was not possible and that factories would move to other countries if workers continued to strike.