Organizing for the Rights of Garment Workers in Cambodia

Tuesday, November 27, 2018 - 12:58

By: Phalla, CENTRAL

This is the story of Savan from Kandal Province, 50kms from Cambodia's capital Phnom Penh. Savan has been a garment worker for 18 years now, working for a factory that mainly produces clothes for H&M, a famous Swedish multinational clothing company. Savan’s working conditions in the factory have been very tough, experiencing gender-based violence at work since she started working as a garment worker in 1998.

I was cursed at being given very little pay and forced to work extra hours with no pay… it was a bitter and painful experience for me. 

By attending trainings conducted by  CENTRAL, a coalition partner of ActionAid Cambodia’s Safe Cities Campaign, Savan was able to understand better her rights as a garment worker and her rights in relation to Cambodia’s Labour Laws. This then led her to be voted President of her local union, the Cambodia Alliance of Trade Unions’ chapter at the Yi Da Manufacture Corporation.

However, in May 2016 when Savan’s employer found out that she was elected as a local union president, Savan’s employer fired her. CENTRAL provided legal awareness and representation to Savan at the Conciliation and Arbitration Council, which ordered Savan’s employer to reinstate her at work with back pay. However, the employer refused and offered money to Savan in exchange for agreeing not to return to work.

Savan rejected the offer and CENTRAL took further action by campaigning internationally to force the brand H&M to put pressure on the factory to implement the Arbitration Council’s order. After much campaigning, H&M finally agreed to talk to Savan’s employer and as a result, Savan was reinstated on October 25, 2016, receiving more than $US 1,000 as back pay and a two-year contract.

ActionAid joins feminist organisations and trade union movements during the 16 Days of Activitism and beyond in campaigning for an end to gender-based violence in the world of work, and to help ensure that more women like Savan are supported in their fight for their rights.