After the long and semi-successful struggle of their colleagues in Bangladesh, now also Cambodian and Haitian textile factory workers are demanding higher wages. The governments in both countries have increased minimum wages slightly already, but labour unions want a significant increase.
Cambodia: "Our members demand 160 dollars"
Both countries have seen protests for quite a while: Cambodia had to deal with severe protests in May and November, when a woman died and several dozens were injured after a harsh police intervention. Just last week, some 300,000 Cambodian textile workers went on strike. During the strike a lot of factories closed down, fearing massive destruction. The closure seems to have cost the local textile industry some 10 million euro per day.
The minimum wage was subsequently increased from 95 dollars (69 euro) to 100 dollars (73 euro) per month in order to avoid further losses, but the Cambodian textile workers demand 160 dollar (117 euro) per month. “As long as we do not get it, we will keep on protesting”, the labour union president has said to fashion website WWD. Labour rights organization Solidarity Center believes the wage increase is a first step, as it shows the government is willing to negotiate.
Haiti: workers find first increase ridiculous
The Haitian minimum wage was also increased recently, after protests in its capital Port-au-Prince. The minimum wage was lifted from 200 Haitian gourde (3.65 euro) to 225 gourde (3.73 euro). Haïti 17, the labour union for the textile sector, finds the increase "ridiculously low" and demands a 500 gourde (8.29 euro) minimum wage per day. The labour union believes that amount would enable workers to fulfil their basic needs.
The Haitian textile industry makes up 90 % of the country’s export, bringing in 440 million euro per year. 31,000 people work in the sector. Manufacturers fear they will not be able to compete with other countries if the wage costs keep rising. According to the industry, wages are already 4 times higher than in Bangladesh.
(Translated by Gary Peeters)