[ePrayer – Pray for the labour strike in Cambodia]
The Cambodia government recently announced to increase the minimum wage of garment industry to USD 95. However, this amount is way lower than the amount of USD 160 insisted by workers and thus sparked off the current labour strike. There are over 500 garment factories in Cambodia. About 300,000 garment workers go on strike, seriously affecting the local garment industry.
In the past, labour strikes usually ended peacefully in Cambodia. This time however, is in a very huge scale and seems to become more and more intense. Many factories go into a stall. Police is called to quiet the demonstrators using armed force, resulting in bloody conflicts leading to at least 4 dead.
The manufacturers of many multinational garment corporations are involved in this strike. According to the study of “Labour Behind the Label” and the news report of “The Independent” last September, these multinationals offer about a GBP50 monthly salary to their workers in Cambodia. One quarter of their workers however are found to be seriously malnutrition. It is reported that if a worker need to acquire energy of 3,000 Kcal per day as suggested by doctor, he/she will have to spend GBP47 monthly in food, which is almost their whole monthly salary!
Cambodia ended its civil war in 1997 and since then, many industries have embarked into recovery phase. Due to the huge labour force from the young adults, many foreign-invested enterprises came and set up factories in Cambodia. One third of them are from China. In recent years, the production cost in China is escalating quickly due to high salaries and complex labour benefits and welfare legal regulations. Investors in China have determined that it’s no longer cost effective to produce in China. Consequently many of them move to other countries with lower labour cost, such as Cambodia, Thailand, Vietnam and Myanmar. [The Independent, BBC, HK Daily News, the House News]
Meditate on Scripture:
‘For the kingdom of heaven is like a landowner who went out early in the morning to hire workers for his vineyard. …The workers who were hired first grumble against the landowner. “These who were hired last worked only one hour, and you have made them equal to us who have borne the burden of the work and the heat of the day.” But the landowner answered one of them, “I am not being unfair to you, friend. Didn’t you agree to work for a denarius? Take your pay and go. I want to give the one who was hired last the same as I gave you. 15 Don’t I have the right to do what I want with my own money? Or are you envious because I am generous?”’ Matthew 20:1-16
At that time, a denarius was the daily wage of a laborer, and was enough to buy one-day food supply for a household. In those days, the landowner considered what is the amount that a worker’s family would need to survive and paid him what we say today the ‘Family Wage’. It is indeed a challenge to balance the different benefits and wants from foreign investors, factory owners, government and labourers. However, as Christians, it is worth to reflect on such practical issue, which is under the globalized world today that is largely dominated by capitalism, how one can fairly allocate the profits and resources among different social stratum practising the teaching of Christian faith on justice and mercy.
Pray for the labour strike in Cambodia:
- The Cambodian government will soon meet with GMAC to discuss about the minimum wage for the garment industry. Pray for good communications between the two parties and a consensus reached to all satisfaction;
- Pray for an effective and secured platform/ channel for workers to express their opinions without facing any threats;
- Pray for a fair wage to workers which can meet their daily needs.