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NEWS UPDATES 28 September 2010

Clothiers concerned about Cambodian unrest

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Clothing brands Adidas, Gap, H&M and Levi's are concerned about the recent unrest in the Cambodian garment industry, as talks between unions and manufacturers kicked off on Monday.

Tens of thousands of textile workers staged a four-day walkout earlier this month to demand higher wages.

In a letter sent to unions and the Garment Manufacturers' Association in Cambodia (GMAC) on Friday, the major foreign buyers said they have been following the recent developments.

"It is now with great concern that we watch the direction the process is taking," they wrote.

The letter -- which was also signed by The Walt Disney Company -- urged both sides to find a "long-term solution" and called for "mature industrial relations".

GMAC secretary general Ken Loo said nothing had been agreed in the first meeting between manufacturers and unions on Monday, and both sides are to submit a list of five negotiators to the Ministry of Labour by Wednesday.

He added that the unions had not pressed for a minimum wage increase -- GMAC had made clear beforehand that was not an option -- but asked for an attendance bonus, a seniority bonus, daily food allowances and a living wage allowance.

Ken Loo said there was room to negotiate about the allowances and a deal "is possible."

Union leader Ath Thun, president of the Cambodian Labour Confederation, told AFP: "We are hopeful that we will get those demands because all sides have agreed to negotiate to end the issue."

The garment industry is a key source of foreign income for Cambodia and employs about 345,000 workers.

The strike followed a deal between the government and industry that set the minimum monthly wage for garment staff at US$61 US dollars. Unions want a base salary of 93 US dollars.

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