Over 200 workers gathered at the Peoples Tribunal on Minimum Living Wage and Decent Working Conditions for Garment Workers

Over 200 workers gathered at the 'People's Tribunal on Minimum Living Wage and Decent Working Conditions for Garment Workers'

A two-day hearing in which over 200 Cambodian garment workers gathered to give evidence on pay and conditions at factories has recommended that international brands and retailers take "immediate steps" to address the issue of poverty wages for factory workers.

The verdict follows a two-day 'People's Tribunal on for Minimum Living Wages and Decent Working Conditions for Garment Workers as a Fundamental Right' which took place in Phnom Penh earlier this week.

Testimonies were heard on mass fainting, slum living conditions, malnutrition, debt, repeated short term contracts and dismissals of 1000 union leaders after a sector-wide strike. Expert witnesses also revealed that massive inflation means Cambodian garment workers have seen a real wage loss of over 14% during the last 12 years.

Multinational brands Adidas and Puma also presented evidence on their role as buyers. Both are taking part in a multi-brand initiative to try to identify what a 'fair wage' in the garment industry could be, and they are considering a 'living wage' as one possible option.

But H&M and Gap, the largest buyers in the country, declined to take part, organisers said.

The Asia Floor Wage Alliance, which helped stage the tribunal, expressed concern that too much discussion of wages and not enough real action was being undertaken by brands.

"The tribunal reveals a chasm between the CSR speak of international garment companies and the real situation faced by Asian garment workers," said Anannya Bhattacharjee, coordinator of the International Asia Floor Wage Alliance.

"The wage issue is a cross border problem and needs to be addressed as such. International players must work together and use the Asia Floor Wage figure to combat poverty pay in the garment sector."

The tribunal took place a week after the International Labor Organization's Better Factories Cambodia initiative released its "27th Synthesis Report on Working Conditions in Cambodia's Garment Sector," which assesses compliance with Cambodian and international labour standards in garment factories.

The reports notes that while the Cambodian garment industry "has demonstrated consistent compliance on indicators such as payment of the proper minimum wage and overtime wages and provision of annual leave, improvements can be made in other areas that contribute to the health and welfare of workers."