Monthly Archives: September 2012

Cambodia National Rescue Party Offers US$150 as Minimum Wage

Negotiating for minimum wage with international brands begins with minimum wage that should be determined by law. Other benefits and guarantees must be part of the negotiation to ensure living wage and  workers’ rights. We have heard enough of testimonies, seen enough violations of workers’ rights and are more than concerned for protection of our human resources, majority of them women. Cambodia National Rescue Party will address these issues that have long fought and come into tough confrontation with the authorities and the big brands. We offer a US$150 minimum wage and full protection of our workers.

 

Mind the wage gap

Friday, 28 September 2012
 Shane Worrell and Mom Kunthear
garment_will_baxter

Garment workers eat a spartan dinner of noodles outside a cluster of factories in Phnom Penh’s Meanchey district. Photograph: Will Baxter/Phnom Penh Post

Most mornings, garment worker Vicheka buys food from the street vendors outside her factory in Kampong Chhnang province. The beef and pork dishes, she says, have a tendency to give workers a stomach ache – a reputation forged long before Vicheka and her co-workers at the M&V factory fainted on the job this month.

It’s not unusual for the food to spend hours in the sun’s searing heat. More often than not, it’s unhygienic and it always tastes bad.

Its allure, however, is that it’s cheap.

“I make a low wage,” the 20-year-old, who has been working in the factory making clothing for H&M for three years, says. “I simply can’t spend money on good food. It’s too expensive.”

In the past week, Clean Clothes Campaign activists have been staging mock faintings in fashion stores across Europe to draw attention to the conditions Cambodian workers endure while sewing for big brands such as H&M, Gap and Levi’s.

CCC’s campaign makes the point that “poverty pay” and malnutrition contribute to mass faintings. A simple and straightforward solution, it says, is to pay Cambodian workers a living wage – the minimum amount of money someone needs to meet their basic needs.

According to the union and labour group Asia Floor Wage Alliance, this figure should be $281 a month. Even with a $10 increase approved by the government that will kick in this month, the minimum wage for garment workers is $83.

With Cambodia’s garment industry burgeoning – exports topped $1 billion during the first quarter of this year – big brands have an obligation to bridge this wage gap, Carin Leffler, co-ordinator for Clean Clothes Campaign Norway, says.

“A number of actors are profiting from really low wages and low prices of clothes,” she says. “It’s important to make it clear the labour cost in a typical piece of clothing makes up one to three per cent of its retail price.”

Brands and consumers should also be prepared to pay more for products – money that should flow down to the workers, she says. “The worker at the bottom of the supply chain have paid enough in terms of extremely long hours, dangerous working conditions, bad housing and poor occupational health,” Leffler says. “Workers have the right to a decent living.”

Since pushing the idea of a living wage during a “people’s forum” in Phnom Penh in February, Anannya Bhattacharjee, international co-ordinator of the Asia Floor Wage Alliance, has had little response from brands. “We’re open to dialogue with the brands as far as what the steps are to closing this gap . . . They’re claiming to be doing their own research. But so far, not a single brand has sat down with us,” she says.

“The brands are paying a certain price to suppliers. That price is relatively low. We’re saying the brands need to increase prices . . . [and] compensate the industry, so that workers are paid the Asia Floor [living] wage.”

A spokesman for Asia-Pacific Levi Strauss & Co says the company is concerned for its workers and is exploring how conditions can be improved. “We are working with industry, government and NGOs to address worker rights and worker well-being in Cambodia,” she says.

“Our company works with governments, unions, industry associations and other stakeholders who are trying to determine how to achieve a living wage and improve workers’ standard of living.”

Gap and H&M did not respond to email inquiries from the Post about whether paying workers in their source factories a living wage was a priority.

Garment Manufacturers’ Association in Cambodia Secretary-General Ken Loo could not be reached for comment yesterday, but he has told the Post in the past that many garment workers take home $150 per month after factoring in bonuses and overtime wages and that there are numerous calculations for determining a living wage.

Former garment worker Soramy has bid goodbye to her friends and moved out of the rickety, leaking hut she called home for 12 years while working at a Tai Yang Enterprises factory in Kandal province.

Mixed emotions have accompanied her return to her native Kampong Speu province: she’s relieved she no longer shares a floor with eight others when she sleeps at night, but she’s disheartened she never earned enough to adequately provide for her widowed mother.

“The whole time I was a garment worker, not once did I have nice food to eat,” she says. “All I could afford was 500 to 1,000 riel per meal. I ate to fill my stomach, but it was far from nutritious.”

Many garment workers live in shabby residences around their workplaces. Rent and food prices in these areas have a tendency to rise when wages do. “Most live in a small room crammed with others,” Cambodian Labour Confederation president Ath Thorn says. “The roofs leak, their blankets and pillows are dirty and their beds are the floor. They eat in the same place, this is life for a garment worker.”

Thorn advocates a $280 per month living wage, but realises such a payment for the hundreds of thousands of workers in the industry could be a long time coming. “Another study in 2009 showed that workers need at least $120 per month to support a family of four,” he says. “Three years on, that figure should be about $200. We must work towards this.”

The short-term answer for workers could lie in other initiatives that don’t involve immediate pay rises, according to Dave Welsh, American Center for International Labor Solidarity country manager. Although a $280 living wage is perfectly reasonable, he says, unfortunately for now, it’s “pie-in-the-sky stuff”.

His organisation will continue talking with major brands about a plan to have them sponsor an industry-wide food project that would provide meals to workers. “This would eliminate about 65 per cent of their expenditure, taking them out of inflationary pressure,” Welsh says.

Small wage rises make the government look good, he says, but quite often, landlords and food vendors in “company-town-like structures” around factories raise their prices to correspond with the workers’ having extra money. “That could be addressed by subjecting landlords to price controls,” he says.

Vicheka and her colleagues who fainted at work early this month are less concerned about how change occurs, but they are holding out for something that allows them to eat properly.

“I know I would not have fainted if I ate good food,” she says.


To contact the reporter on this story: Shane Worrell at shane.worrell@phonmpenhpost.com
Mom Kunthear at kunthear.mom@phnompenhpost.com

WHY THE OBAMA PETITION?

Why the Obama Petition?

President Obama is the standard-bearer of democracy. We ask him to exercise the greatest vigilance with regard to the poll. In November, President Obama will visit Cambodia because the country holds the presidency of ASEAN in 2012.

We ask President Obama to put 2 conditions to his visit:

The first is thorough reform of the body that administers elections in Cambodia, the National Election Committee (NEC). This organization should be non-partisan, but is in fact under the majority control of the ruling party, the CPP. The UN’s Special Rapporteur on Human Rights in Cambodia, Surya P. Subedi, has recommended this reform, which has been refused by the government. As long as the NEC remains in its current form, there can be no fair elections.

The second is that opposition leader Sam Rainsy must be allowed to return to contest the elections. Mr.Sam Rainsy is the only credible rival to Hun Sen.

If the conditions for proper elections can’t be met, then we ask President Obama to Not provide an endorsement for totalitarianism. It would be better for the President  Not to come to Cambodia.

The people of Cambodia, for so long denied their right to self-determination, now need President Obama to walk the talk.

There are no signs that Mr. Hun Sen will consider any of the UN recommendations. The stake is very high in 2013: do we allow Cambodia to go through another 5 years of total loss of natural resources, of loss of territory, of a one-party rule, of corruption and gross violations of human rights?

We want a government that is legitimate in 2013. We want Cambodia to move forward and to be governed by rule of law and for our people to fully exercise their rights and freedoms.

We need to act NOW. We need to prevent the foreseeable economic, social and political detrimental impact on Cambodia and on our people should there be another election conducted under the current political environment and by an institution that exist to be used as a tool to preserve the power of the CPP.

The international community has an obligation to the Paris Peace Accords and soft diplomacy has led to the current state of affairs in Cambodia.

Why not just ask President Obama to come and deliver a message to Mr. Hun Sen? Because, it will be too late.  Mr. Hun Sen wants the visit of President Obama.

I respectfully and sincerely send my gratitude to those who have signed the petition and the same respect and sincere appreciation go to those who oppose it.

More than 700 people have signed the petition and the number is growing.

Let the people express their opinion but do stand together to stop the tears of our children.

Sincerely,

Mu Sochua

Cambodia National Rescue Party

Battambang

30 September, 2012.

WE NEED AT LEAST 100 SIGNATURES PER DAY-Il faut au moins 100 signatures PAR JOUR.
 
GO CAMBODIAN-AMERICANS!
 
GO FRIENDS OF CAMBODIA!
 
IT IS FOR TRUE DEMOCRACY FOR CAMBODIA- C’EST POUR LA VRAIE DÉMOCRATIE POUR LE CAMBODGE.

President Barack Obama: TO CANCEL VISIT TO CAMBODIA IF NO ELECTIONS REFORMS- D’ANNULER LA VISITE AU CAMBODGE EN L’ABSENCE DE RÉFORMES D’ÉLECTIONS
Please sign the petition on the link below and forward it to your network-S.V.P. Signez la pétition sur le lien ci-dessous et la faire suivre dans votre réseau :

OUR WEEK END GOAL! BE PART OF TRUE DEMCOCRACY FOR CAMBODIA

Rina from Dangkor (Phnom Penh suburb) says when she signed the petition

“I want to get fair election in Cambodia.

People living in freedom and peaceful.

JOIN US: OUR WEEK-END GOAL TO REACH 1000 !

626 HAVE SIGNED ON SATURDAY 29 SEPTEMBER AT 6:20AM

Please join this campaign: http://www.change.org/petitions/president-barack-obama-to-cancel-visit-to-cambodia-if-no-elections-reforms?share_id=AcjarBbzWI&utm_campaign=mailto_link&utm_medium=email&utm_source=share_petition

Hun Sen Wants a One-Horse Race? We Want a Fair and Free and Just Race!

International Standards for Free and Fair Elections

http://aceproject.org/main/english/ei/onePage


The Cambodian Democratic Movement for National Rescue
On September 26, 2012, opposition leader Sam Rainsy wrote to The Phnom Penh Post the following letter:
CAMBODIA’S 2013 ELECTION, A ONE-HORSE-RACE?

In the article titled “Bring on one-horse race” in The Phnom Penh Post
dated September 26,…See More



Petition Round 2 – Next 500 Signatories!

We declare VICTORY for Round 1- in less than 48 hours: 500 goal reached today.

Round 2: 44 people signed up
28 September – 1PM

Do we stop? NO!!! Keep the chain going. SHARE IT!


President Barack Obama: TO CANCEL VISIT TO CAMBODIA IF NO ELECTIONS REFORMS
www.change.org
Dear Mr. President,The Cambodian community in America wishes to draw your attention to the democratic deficit

Cambodia’s Land Abuse

Deforestation of Prey Lang

To let the same government lead for another 5 years will be a total natural disaster.

Donors will be closely watched for their commitment to the protection of human rights and climate change.

UN report slams Cambodia’s land abuses

Wednesday, 26 September 2012

Abby Seiff

The Phnom Penh Post

 Blackened tree stumps smoulder on deforested land in the Prey Lang forest in March. Photograph: May Titthara/Phnom Penh Post

 

Cambodia’s economic land concession (ELC) policies are hindering development far more than helping it and beginning to erode the country’s hard-won stability, Cambodia’s special rapporteur warned yesterday.

“As I have noted in relation to other sectors in Cambodia, the existence of the legal framework on paper is one thing, the implementation of the law is another,” rights envoy Surya Subedi told the UN Human Rights Council last night.

“I have been consistently informed that the formal framework relating to land concessions is not being applied properly in many, if not most, cases.”

Addressing the inter-governmental body in Geneva, Subedi also delivered a 130-page addendum to his annual report printed last month, which offers an unsparing look at ELCs.

In the report, released to the public yesterday, Subedi underscores how a solid set of laws intended to govern concessions is flouted and ignored to provide companies and the government with gains that are temporary at best.

The government declared a moratorium on ELCs in May, but dozens in the pipeline at the time of the announcement have continued to go through.

“Throughout my analysis, I struggled to fully comprehend the benefits of many land concessions that the government has granted. In general, it is not clear to what extent the people of Cambodia have actually benefited from land concessions,” Subedi writes.

“The overwhelming conclusion drawn from petitions, letters, studies, peaceful protests, violent demonstrations, legal complaints, land-dispute statistics and my own direct observations is that land concessions are only benefiting a minority.”

Backed by dozens of pages of maps and concessionaire details, the report draws special attention to two rampant misuses of the ELC laws: concessions granted in protected areas and those over the permissible 10,000 hectares.

Both are ostensibly illegal, but loopholes and government compliance have resulted in a surge of such concessions.

In the case of granting land in protected areas, a seemingly ad hoc system of reclassifying the land as a “sustainable use zone” has allowed concessions to proliferate in national parks and wildlife sanctuaries.

“There is concern that sub-decrees are being used opportunistically as a means for the government to designate land within protected areas and grant it to concession companies,” Subedi writes, pointing out that nearly 20 per cent of the country’s protected areas have been re-purposed for rubber plantations, agro-industrial complexes, exploratory mining and hydropower projects.

Meanwhile, concessionaires have been able to collect parcels of land far larger than the legal limit “by obtaining separate but contiguous concessions and using them for the same purpose”.

Officials at the Ministries of Environment, Agriculture, and Land Management could not be reached for comment.

Accusing the government of allowing concessionaires to “operate behind a veil of secrecy,” Subedi cautions that whatever benefits the government may reap from such allowances will probably be short-lived.

“Perhaps the greatest impact that the irregular granting and mismanagement of economic and other land concessions has on the country is to its stability,” he writes. “Businesses without proper legal and procedural safeguards run significant risks that could affect their reputations, legal status, and profits, and in turn could hamper Cambodia‘s economic growth.”

Speaking at the council last night, Cambodia’s ambassador to the UN, Sun Suon, addressed few of Subedi’s points head-on, instead focusing on progress — highlighting the ELC moratorium as one such success.
Economic land concessions – highlighted in Subedi’s recent report for having massive detrimental impacts on the general populace – have proliferated in recent years. This time lapse map by rights group Licadho shows the speed at which concessions have been granted.

 

 

Be among the first 500 signatories

The petition went online Wednesday 26 September, 2012 at 8.30AM

It is now 8:37PM in Battambang.
Thursday 27 September, 2012.

Be among the first 500 signatories. We need another 111 signatures to declare our first victory. We more than reach the goal: 100 signatures/day.

We reached 383 in just over 24hours.!

Thanking all who believe that democracy is built with action and courage.


President Barack Obama: TO CANCEL VISIT TO CAMBODIA IF NO ELECTIONS REFORMS
www.change.org