Bountiful work, but scant wages angers Cambodia

As night falls in Phonm Penh, thousands of weary workers stream from textile factories, reflecting the abundance of jobs created by the clothing industry’s desire for cheap labor. However, as the number of international clothes companies tapping into Cambodia’s workforce grows, so does anger at the low wages and tough conditions that come with such employment in the global garment industry. … A series of strikes point to festering discontent — leaving the big global clothes brands and the factories they subcontract to trade accusations over who is driving salaries down. Protests by workers have also turned ugly. Three women, employees of Puma supplier Kaoway Sports, were wounded when a gunman opened fire on protesters demanding better working conditions at factories in eastern Svay Rieng Province in February last year. The International Labour Office, which regularly inspects textile mills in the country, has called for a new industrial agreement between the government, factory owners and unions. “Clearly there is some room for additional payment,” the group’s Jill Tucker said, adding that after Bangladesh, Cambodia is one of the cheapest places to make garments. … “If our wages were comparable to Vietnam, would investors come to Cambodia? No way,” said Ken Loo, secretary-general of the Garment Manufacturers Association in Cambodia.