Approximately 30 people handed out peanuts and flyers to the public on Rue Neuve in Brussels on the occasion of Human Rights Day on Thursday at lunchtime, to expose the very low wages paid to Cambodian workers in the textile industry. The action called “Enough of working for peanuts!” was organised by the achACT organisation (non-profit consumers and workers organisation) and their Flemish-speaking peers Schone Kleren Campagne.
Textile workers have been asking for a salary of 177 dollars (164 euros) for over a year. They went on strike in their thousands to defend their claim on November 20th. Their income will rise from 120 to 130 euros monthly from January 1st. By comparison, the living wage in Cambodia is estimated at approximately 350 euros.
AchACT and Schone Kleren Campagne remind the public that mass faintings are frequent in Cambodia. “The Cambodian government is behaving irresponsibly, so we think major buyers in the textile sector should go and negotiate with unions to reach a wage increase,” says Jean-Marc Caudron, in charge of Urgent Action at achACT.
A delegation brought a bag of peanuts and a list of demands by Cambodian workers to H&M headquarters at the end of the protest. H&M management refused to organise a meeting. But the group did send a letter this week to remind people that it signed agreements with the ILO (International Labour Organisation) years ago, and that its strategy is to aim for a living wage globally. “This has not affected working conditions nor wages in factories,” regrets Jean-Marc Caudron after speaking to actors on the ground. “We want a move from good intentions to good deeds. We are requesting emulating the Bangladesh situation where a mandatory agreement on wages was signed with local unions.”
The two organisations also wrote to Zara, C&A and Levi’s, the main customers in the textile sector in Cambodia. Only C&A has answered as yet, and they agreed to schedule a meeting in coming weeks.
Lars Andersen (Source: Belga)