The WRC conducts research into issues of concern in the apparel supply chain. Topics researched include the effects of wage theft on workers, the extent of violence against worker advocates in a particular country or region, and broader industry trends. These research projects are often conducted in partnership with our colleagues at our university affiliates and other research institutions.
On January 2 and 3, 2014, Cambodian security forces engaged in deadly attacks on protesting garment workers in the country’s capital, Phnom Penh. The country’s military police killed at least four people and injured at least 38 by firing assault rifles at workers who were protesting outside garment factories, demanding higher wages. The deadly assault was a response to strikes and demonstrations by tens of thousands of garment factory workers calling for a wage adequate to meet their basic needs.
Garment workers in many of the leading apparel-exporting countries earn little more than subsistence wages for the long hours of labor that they perform. And in many of these countries, as this report discusses, the buying power of these wages is going down, not up.
This is a briefing paper for Worker Rights Consortium
affiliate universities and colleges and their licensees concerning
the labor rights environment in Vietnam and, in particular, its
export garment manufacturing industry, a sector which includes
the production of collegiate licensed apparel.
Haiti is the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere. Its expanding garment industry pays wages to workers that are among the lowest in any of the world’s leading apparel-exporting nations. Yet despite benefiting from rock-bottom labor costs – as well as trade preferences under the HOPE II program – garment factory owners in Haiti routinely, and illegally, cheat workers of substantial portions of their pay, depriving them of any chance to free their families from lives of grueling poverty and frequent hunger.
Monitoring in the Dark: An evaluation of the International Labour Organization’s Better Factories Cambodia monitoring and reporting program (2013)
For over a decade, the Cambodian apparel manufacturing industry has sought competitive advantage in the international marketplace by seeking to obtain and preserve a reputation for relatively greater respect for labor rights than other garment-exporting countries in the region. An examination of the Cambodian garment industry’s recent track record with respect to labor rights, however, raises serious doubts about whether this reputation is warranted.
Tearing Apart at the Seams: How Widespread Use of Fixed-Duration Contracts Threatens Cambodian Workers and the Cambodian Garment Industry (2011)
Over the past several years, the Cambodian garment industry has undergone a radical transformation in the composition of its labor force. During the mid-1990s, when the Cambodian garment industry experienced its initial boom, the majority of workers were hired on a permanent basis under what Cambodian law calls “undetermined-duration contracts” (“UDCs”). Now, factories hire new workers almost exclusively under short-term, temporary contracts, referred to in Cambodia as “fixed-duration contracts” (“FDCs”), and many workers originally hired under UDCs have faced pressure to convert their permanent contracts to FDCs.