Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Garment workers on tour

Cambodian garment workers in UK to push for end to rights violations
A different type of tour takes place in the UK today, with the arrival of two Cambodian garment workers who are hoping to use their visit to draw attention to the appalling conditions faced by garment workers in the supply chains of British and multi-national brands and retailers. Athit Kong, vice president of the Coalition of Cambodian Apparel Workers Democratic Union (CCAWDU) and Pherak Ly, of Womyns Agenda for Change (WAC), will be in the UK from today until 5 June to push for improvements in working conditions in the Cambodian garment industry, with public events in York, London and Norwich. Ms Ly will be returning to London to support the launch of a report into working conditions in the supply chains for the Olympic games.

Garment exporting is one of the main sources of foreign exchange for Cambodia and it remains one of the cheapest countries to source from. Violations of workers rights are common, including poverty wages, excessive working hours, lack of social security, poor health and safety and suppression of trade unions. Workers face an insecure future as more are forced to work on piece rates and temporary contracts. Changes in trade rules have led to many factory owners and brands shifting production to China and elsewhere leaving workers without jobs or compensation. A number of British and European retailers including Asda George, Primark, H&M, Zara, Debenhams and Arcadia are known to source clothing from Cambodia.

Cambodian trade unionists face harassment, dismissal and even death whilst trying to demand better rights. Three Cambodian trade unionists have been murdered in the last few years, several others have suffered assualts and arrest. An international campaign has been launched to urge the Cambodian government to bring to justice the killer of trade union leader Hy Vuthy, shot in February 2007, and also to reopen the investigation into the murder of Chea Vichea in 2004 following the conviction of two men for the killing, who are widely-viewed as innocent.
Find out more here.

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