Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Some statistics to bear in mind when next you buy cheap clothes and footwear manufactured in a third world country

$1.60 - what it costs a Cambodian garment factory worker to eat per day

$48 – a  garment factory worker’s monthly food bill.

$80 -  worker’s income per month

$32 – amount remaining per month to pay all other living expenses.

$1 – daily allowance to pay rent, transport to and from work, buy clothes and toiletries, go to the doctor, buy medicines, send money to family to help support younger siblings.

$160 per month – cost of living for one garment factory worker.

This is the finding of a survey conducted by the Cambodia’s Ministry of Labour and Vocational Training itself, in conjunction with Garment Manufacturing Association in Cambodia (GMAC) and the garment factory unions.

$15 – the monthly raise agreed to in Dec 2013 by the Cambodian government in conjunction with GMAC.

$65 – the gap between the government’s own estimation of living costs and the new $95 per month wage being offered.

The garment factory unions found this unacceptable and called their workers to go on strike.

On 2nd Jan Mr Ken Loo, General Secretary of GMAC wrote to the Minister of Economy and Finance (Mr Oun Panmoniroth) complaining that:

“…many garment and footwear factories are adversely suffering as a result of the six unions who have been leading illegal strikes and demonstrations….as a consequence, the factories  cannot produce goods at the quantity ordered and deliver them to buyers on time. Moreover, the ongoing demand for worker’s wage increase which is not reasonable forces many factories to close….the factories cannot continue their activities. In order to reduce the damages, the factories have no choice but to transfer their production to their factories based in other countries.”

GMAC’s Mr Ken Loo leaves the government with no illusions as to the intention of its members to pack up shop and move production to another country if the strikes continue:

“GMAC would like to seek for you assistance in co-ordination in re-exporting the items by providing us with advice and precise procedure for the investors who have so far made a huge contribution to the Cambodian economy.”

The following day the Cambodian Army arrived on the scene to break up the demonstration – shooting and killing garment factory workers. The precise number killed and disappeared is still not known. It seems that four workers died -  not five,  as previously reported.

$30 – 50 – the ‘pleasant incentive’ pay increase per month GMAC is offering to garment factory workers who do not cause problems for their employers.

335,400 – the number of Cambodia’s garment factory workers.

91% - the number of workers who are female.

$ 5 billion – the amount of export revenue earned by the garment manufacturing sector each year.

$5.50 - wholesale cost of a Cambodian manufactured t-shirt bought online in Australia.

$7.47 cost Wavezone Batwing Print T-Shirt at Big W

$15 – cost of long sleeved business shirt at Target in Australia.

Bear these figures in mind when next you buy cheap clothes from any Australian retailer. The saving to your budget have almost certainly been made possible because a young woman you will never meet, never know, who cannot afford to eat properly and must live in a crammed dormitory, is working for a wage that is half of what is needed (according to the Cambodian government’s own research) to live.

If this young woman goes on strike, as her union demands a $160 living wage for her, she may be shot and killed by the Royal Cambodian Army as it defends the right of GMAC to exploit garment factory workers.

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