Ahead of talks scheduled to take place next week on a potential rise in the minimum wage for workers in Cambodia's garment and footwear factories, campaigners are urging fashion brands to support an increase.

Cambodian trade unions will negotiate with government and industry officials, with the International Labor Organization (ILO) acting as a coordinator.

The minimum wage for garment workers in Cambodia is currently US$61 a month, making it one of the lowest in Asia. Massive inflation has also meant Cambodian garment workers have seen a real wage loss of over 14% during the last 12 years.

The Cambodian Allied Workers' Democratic Union (C.CAWDU) wants to see the minimum wage go up from $61 to $150 a month. The Clean Clothes Campaign is also supporting this figure, pointing to evidence that shows that a 'living wage' is more than four times the current minimum.

"Rising food and fuel costs have left many workers in need. C.CAWDU is calling for $150 minimum wage, which is achievable and very necessary," says Athit Kong, vice president of the Cambodian trade union C.CADWU.

"Major fashion brands, who often say that a minimum wage increase is the only fair way for wages to go up, must take this opportunity to act," said Jeroen Merk from the International Clean Clothes Campaign.

H&M, Gap, Zara and Levi's source a significant number products from factories in Cambodia and labour activists are asking them to add their support to the negotiations.

Campaigners are planning demonstrations outside branches of some Western apparel specialists to tackle what they describe as the "poverty wages" of the country's garment workers.

Cambodia's garment exports rose 9.9% to $3.44bn in the first nine months of last year, up from $3.13bn a year ago. The garment sector remains as the backbone of the Kingdom's economy as its largest foreign-currency earner.