Cambodian workers will be the ultimate victims if minority and violent unions continue to put the garment and shoe industries under the state of uncertainty and unpredictability by continuing to demand for further wage hikes that the industry cannot afford, an employers' association said in a statement Sunday.
The statement issued by the Garment Manufacturers Association in Cambodia (GMAC) said although the Labor Advisory Committee had already decided on the new minimum wage by a majority vote, minority and violent unions continue with daily threat of strikes, demonstrations and disruption of the workplace.
"Many factories have reported the reduction in orders starting from April this year as many buyers have evaluated and now consider Cambodia as a high-risk country," it said.
"Cambodia's so-called credibility as a safe sourcing country with high levels of labor and social compliance cannot compensate for this and if such the situation continues, Cambodia's garment and shoe industries are in for a rude awakening, and Cambodian workers will be the hardest hit victims ultimately."
The statement also called for an urgent need to protect the industrial sectors in order to ensure the jobs and employment security of more than 600,000 workers in the industries.
The statement came after eight 8 opposition-aligned trade unions jointly announced early this week to renew a garment strike from March 12 to 19 to demand a 160 U.S. dollars minimum wages for garment workers and the release of 21 detainees who were arrested on Jan. 3 during a violent protest.
Pav Sina, president of the Collective Union of Movement of Workers, said the eight trade unions represented about 200,000 of the 600,000 workers in more than 900 garment and shoe factories in the kingdom.
"We have no choice, but to proceed with our plan to lead a stay- at-home strike from March 12 to 19 if our demands are not met," he said Sunday.
Prime Minister Hun Sen said early this week that the opposition- aligned unions, which incite garment workers to stage strikes for higher wages, must take responsibilities for any future closures of factories.
"The government has worked very hard to attract investors to build factories and has urged manufacturers to increase wages for workers every year," the prime minister said.
"We wait and see if any factories close doors due to demonstrations or strikes demanding higher wages," he said. "When investors close factories, (unemployed) workers should hold protests against those inciting unions and demand those inciters to find jobs for them."
The garment and shoe industries, the kingdom's largest foreign exchange earner, generated some 5.53 billion U.S. dollars in revenues last year.
Current minimum wages for Cambodian garment workers are 100 U.S. dollars a month, up from 80 U.S. dollars last year.
"Wages for our garment workers are higher than those of Laos, Bangladesh, India, Nepal and Myanmar," Hun Sen said.