Starving for fashion

Starving for fashion
The synod Commission for Mission (CFM) is asking Uniting Church members to write letters to clothing giant Pacific Brands, requesting it ensure production workers in Cambodia are paid enough to live on.

Pacific Brands owns well-known brands such as Bonds, Sheridan, Berlei, Tontine, Holeproof, Jockey and Voodoo.

Wages of workers in the garment sector in Cambodia remain woefully inadequate. The low wages result in poor nutrition for workers. After 300 workers fainted in 24 hours at King Fashion Garment factory in Cambodia, the district police chief Born Sam Ath stated: “Workers’ health is not good. They don’t eat enough and the workplace is stuffy.”

The issue of low wages can force women workers to abandon children, and people become weak and ill due to their inability to afford a decent diet. Factory owners, under pressure from foreign buyers, exploit the low wages to enforce overtime workloads that further affect the health of the work force.

The Cambodian Wage Tribunal concluded: “Women workers are forced to base their nutrition on food with a totally insufficient caloric content, many hours of overtime work become practically mandatory, thus making much worse the chronic exposure to the harmful environment”.

In September 2014, eight global companies (C&A, H&M, Inditex, N Brown Group, Tchibo GmbH, Next Retail, Primark, New Look) who source garments from Cambodia wrote a joint letter to the Cambodian Government in support of a living wage for garment workers.

The Cambodian Labour Advisory Committee released a new minimum wage level for garment workers set at $152 per month (around $5 a day). However, this is still far below a level that would allow workers to escape a life of poverty. The Cambodian garment workers’ unions have advocated for a modest minimum wage of $210 per month.

Australian based companies did not support this action at the time. The CFM found that Pacific Brands are sourcing from Cambodia. The CFM wrote to them in January and asked if they would publicly support a living wage for Cambodian garment workers.

“We received no reply, so we are asking that Church members now write to them so they know they cannot ignore the issue,” Mark Zirnsak, director of the Justice and International Mission unit said. “For well over a decade Uniting Church members have wanted to know the workers who make the clothes we wear have decent and fair jobs.”

For more information contact the JIM unit at jim@victas.uca.org.au or 9251 5286

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