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Across Asia's borders, labour activists are teaming up to press wage claims

Published on Aug 18, 2014 5:29 AM
 
A garment worker holds a placard reading "Monthly minimum wage $160" during a protest in central Phnom Penh in this December 31, 2013 file photo. Labour leaders behind the biggest strikes in Cambodia's US$5 billion (S$6.2 billion) garment industry secured a 25 per cent increase in the minimum pay for an estimated 600,000 garment workers, to US$100 a month, the biggest jump in around 15 years. Now, they're asking for more. -- PHOTO: REUTERS

JAKARTA/PHNOM PENH (REUTERS) - Labour leaders behind the biggest strikes in Cambodia's US$5 billion (S$6.2 billion) garment industry knew last year they had a strong case for higher wages: they had already compared notes with activists in neighbouring countries.

The result was a 25 per cent increase in the minimum pay for an estimated 600,000 garment workers, to US$100 a month, the biggest jump in around 15 years. Now, they are asking for more.

Negotiations over pay and working conditions have typically remained within national borders, but activists are now bringing more muscle to the table and putting more pressure on employers and governments by using shared experiences in nearby markets.

For global companies that have shifted production to South-east Asia's low-cost manufacturing hub, this could mean less room for wage bargaining, a squeeze on profits and maybe even higher price tags on anything from shoes and clothing to cars and electronics appliances.

 
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