Workers – the real people out there who the Six Items Challenge is focused on helping… Labour Behind the Label recently visited Cambodia to attend an international tribunal on wages. An important event and a great opportunity to meet our partner organisations on the ground in Cambodia and talk directly to the workers we are trying to reach.
It’s eye-opening to hear the stories of people directly experiencing the effects of a seriously profit-driven industry. We’d like to introduce you to a young woman, aged 27, working in the capital, Phnom Penh, to support both herself and her family who still live rurally. She works at a factory supplying GAP clothes for the Western market. Sewing 1000 shirts a day, her monthly pay is less than the retail cost of three GAP shirts…
Which part of Cambodia do you come from?
“I am worker from Battambong Province, Cambodia.”
How did you end up working in the garment factory?
“I have no skill to do another job beside this. I want to run a small own business but I have not enough money. My family is so poor: we need to spend much on daily expense. So I have to end up with this job even thought I don’t want to do it.”
How long have you worked at the factory? How old were you when you started?
“I have been working in factories for 8 years. I started working in factory since I was 19 years old and I have changed to work in four different factories. Now I am working in a GAP supplier factory.”
What do you like most/least about your job?
“It’s a bit hard to find what I like at work but many points I really don’t like. Such as: it is hard to take leave and my boss usually blame me and force me to work quickly and work over times (2-3 hours per day) with very low pay. Sometime, I work 10-11 hours per day and can go to the toilet 1 or 2 times per day only. I feel so hard to work with the line streaming system – we work as a machine (and no phone use allowed).”
How much do you earn in the factory? As a basic wage? How much can you earn from overtime or from bonuses?
“I get a minimum wage 63$/month and attendant bonus 7$ and [overtime] paid. In average I get 110-140$ per month including overtime and some small tip.”
How do you spend that money each month?
“I spend on:
– Room: 8$ per month include the utility fee and water too
– Food: 1$-1.5$ per day
– Health fee: 5$/month
– Other daily expense: 0.5$/day”
How do you survive on the money? Is it hard?
“I find that it is difficult for me in living condition. The environment is dirty and not safe. My low wage cannot allow me to buy an energy food to eat.”
Do you have a family, husband or children?
“No, I am single.”
Do you work overtime? How much? Does this intrude on family life?
“I work over time every day (2-4 hours per day, 1 hour = $0.5). I have to work over time even if I don’t want to. I need money to support myself and my family.”
Are you afraid of being dismissed? Why?
“I feel afraid to be dismissed because I work under short contract. Working in the short contract I meet many challenges and pressure. I can be dismissed every time if I don’t follow what they order me to do.”
Do you have a temporary contract or a casual contract? How is this precarious employment influencing your and your family’s lives?
“I work as 6 months short contract; it impacts to my life living so badly. I face to lose job all the time so it will be a big problem that I can’t support my living and family living life till I can find a new work.”
What are your biggest worries?
” I do concern [about] my health because nowadays I get a serious stomach-ache. So, I have to spend much money to cure and I have to work even I am sick like this. I don’t know what to do when I can’t work anymore.”
What do you think GAP should do?
“GAP should do:
– Push the employer to increase worker’s wage under GAP’s Branch
– Canceling the short contract for workers
– Work only 8 hours per day without forcing to work over time”
What do you feel about GAP clothes being sold for average of $50 per item in UK?
“I feel so hurt to see the price of GAP is so expensive while I got very low wage from it. I work so hard from day to day (At least 1000 shirts per day) but I just get a very low wage. So GAP finds very high benefit from this.
I feel unfair that they just sell few of shirts and it is equal to my wage per month. “