PHNOM PENH, Cambodia — About 30 representatives of major clothing brands and international trade unions met with Cambodia’s deputy prime minister on Monday to stress the importance of stability in the $5 billion industry and credibility for the country’s rule of law.
This is the second such meeting since the Jan. 3 clash when a demonstration for higher wages descended into violence after armed security forces opened fire at protesting workers. The incident, which left at least five workers dead and more than 40 injured, was of great concern to major exporting brands —such as Gap, H&M, Levi’s, Inditex and Puma. The first meeting between all parties was held here on Feb. 19 to discuss the violence perpetrated against the workers and the importance of setting a methodology for the minimum wage.
Monday’s meeting with Cambodian Deputy Prime Minister Keat Chhon also comes a day after eight representatives of an independent union, Cambodia Coalition of Apparel Workers Democratic Union, were charged with incitement for taking part in a garment protest in the southwestern province of Takeo.
Labor and human rights activists have said the government’s increasing use of incitement charges since the Jan. 3 shooting was a way to intimidate workers and unions, and that the space for freedom of association has shrunk significantly in the last year. RELATED STORY: Cambodia's Labor Day Turns Violent >>
Jyrki Raina, secretary general of IndustriALL Global Union — who attended the nearly two-hour meeting — said the issues of respecting workers’ rights and maintaining industry stability were the main concerns.
“The brands underlined the need for stability. They talked about the increasing pressures from consumers so the image [of Cambodia] is very important,” Raina said, adding that because of this instability, one major brand — which he declined to name — has scaled back production by 50 percent.
“My attitude is we need to get rid of the court cases, all the court cases,” he continued. “If the government is serious [about] building constructive labor relations, you cannot do that if you, at the same time, have court cases against independent unions.”
As for the discussion on minimum wage, Raina said the process has been “too slow,” and that the brands have reiterated their commitment to raise prices for factory owners if the minimum wage was raised to a living wage — a term used to describe a salary that can provide an average worker with a decent living.
Heng Sour, spokesman for the Ministry of Labor, called the discussion “fruitful and positive.” He also said that any blame for withdrawal by the brands should be pinned on the employers and the workers.
“Who causes the uncertainty and unpredictability? I think both unions and employers. So if they think employment and work is beneficial to all of them, they have to find a way out,” Sour said. “That’s why we need to be patient and bring all parties together.”
He added that Cambodia’s Labor Law only mentions the need for a minimum wage.
“We are not talking about a fair wage; we are not talking about a living wage,” Sour said, adding that all parties need to come together to set a transparent and fair method to setting the minimum wage.
H&M spokeswoman Anna Eriksson said by e-mail that the Swedish retailer wants to continue its business relationship with Cambodia, and that the country needs to develop an “advanced and mature textile industry.”
“We are dependent on stable markets in which people are treated with respect, and with our dedication, we can contribute to positive development,” Eriksson said.
IndustriALL’s Raina stressed that while none of the brands made any “threats” about leaving the country, there are serious issues with the government’s ability to maintain a secure and reliable industry, while projecting with a positive image for labor rights.
“This, again, is a question of Cambodia’s credibility and its rule of law,” Raina said. “The world is watching. This is an opportunity. We all want Cambodia to maintain and keep the garment industry and not lose it.”
The government has steadfastly insisted that the shooting in Jan. 3 was to maintain law and order, and no one from the security forces has ever been charged or punished. Meanwhile, the Municipal Court is currently processing a trial against 23 workers, union representatives and bystanders charged with causing violence and destruction of property from the Jan. 3 demonstration.
“My personal philosophy to beauty is paying attention to oneself. I love to be outdoors, lots of fresh air, trying to take care of yourself as best you can. I always notice that comes through,” says Felicity Jones, the global face of @shiseido-owned @cledepeaubeauteus, which launches today. Head to WWD.com to read more about the actress’ love for beauty and how she prepared for her new role in “The Basis of Sex,” playing the young Ruth Bader Ginsburg. #wwdbeauty (📷: @dandoperalski)
For men’s fall 2018, @giuseppezanotti drew on elements from streetwear, sport, biker, combat and rock ‘n’ roll. Pictured here are a pair of shoes from the collection, featuring zippers, rhinestones, and silver hardware. Head to WWD.com to see a roundup of the accessories from Milan’s men’s fall 2018 shows. #wwdfashion (📷: Andrea Delb)
To celebrate the 25th anniversary of @ralphlauren’s snowboarding collection, the brand is mining its archives. The iconic brand is reintroducing vintage styles and dropping new designs for a color capsule that will be available in Ralph Lauren stores and @openingceremony on January 25. The capsule will consist of 10 pieces, including the Snow Beach Pullover, pictured here, which is a collector’s item that rapper Raekwon wore in Wu-Tang Clan’s “Can It Be All So Simple” video. #wwdfashion (📷: Tom Gould)
For @rochasofficial’s pre-fall 2018 collection, creative director Alessandro Dell’Acqua channeled the sophisticated and intriguing Catherine Denevue in the film “Belle de Jour.” Polished collarless coats, midi skirts, suits and ’60s graphic motifs were all featured in the collection, adding a sense of discreet luxury. See the rest of the photos on WWD.com #wwdfashion
“We tried to produce clothing of that couture quality, but the most daunting part was that we only had a matter of days [to do it],” said costume designer Lou Eyrich, who recreated Gianni Versace’s iconic looks for @americancrimestoryfx. Eyrich searched online retailers and vintage shops for original pieces from the design house and for @penelopecruzoficial, who plays Donatella Versace. Head to WWD.com to read how she created the Versace world. #wwdfashion
Only three months after her stellar debut catwalk season, @kaiagerber has inked her first big design collaboration –– with @karllagerfeld. The collection blends Lagerfeld’s Parisian chic aesthetic and the model’s signature West Coast casual style via RTW, accessories, footwear and more. The #KarlLagerfeldxKaia collection will launch in September with a series of events. Get all the details on WWD.com. #wwdnews #wwdfashion
Harrods plans to remove the famous statue of Princess Diana and Dodi Al Fayed from the bottom of the Egyptian escalators and hand it back to Mohamed Al-Fayed. “We are very proud to have played our role in celebrating the lives of Diana, Princess of Wales and Dodi Al Fayed at Harrods and to have welcomed people from around the world to visit the memorial for the past 20 years,” said Michael Ward, Harrods managing director. “With the announcement of the new official memorial statue to Diana, Princess of Wales at Kensington Palace, we feel that the time is right to return this memorial to Mr. Al Fayed and for the public to be invited to pay their respects at the palace.” More on the news, with reporting by @loreleimarfil, at WWD.com. #wwdnews