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Cambodian and Vietnamese workers fight back

Some years ago, I quoted hopefully from an article by Karen Tramontano of the Global Fairness Initiative:

The nation of Cambodia, which endured some of the worst tribulations of the past half-century, has managed in recent years to write at least one hopeful chapter. Cambodia has not only established itself as a competitive force in the textile and garment industry but has done so while also honoring a code of labor rights, a rarity among developing nations. The Cambodian labor compliance program is one of the most successful and widely regarded innovations in trade-related partnerships. Industry, government, unions and civil society are unanimous in their praise.

I concluded by saying that I’d be looking for the “Made in Cambodia” label.

After reading a report from LabourStart on its latest campaign, all I can say is: Never mind.

This campaign is in solidarity with Cambodian garment workers and unions, who initiated a general strike seeking an increase in minimum wage from US$80 per month to US$160. The strike was very effective, with many thousands of workers participating, and the employers association (GMAC) called a lockout and urged the government to crack down on the workers. On January 3, 2014, the government sent military police to attack a demonstration at one of the struck factories, and they opened fire on the demonstration with AK-47 rifles and killed five workers and seriously injured dozens more. The government has since banned all demonstrations and used military force to clear the streets. At least 39 workers have been detained and are held in unknown locations. Faced with this brutal repression, the unions have called off the strike and workers are returning to work, although they are continuing to press their demands.

The International Trade Union Confederation has sent a mission to Cambodia to investigate.

**********

In Communist-controlled Vietnam, thousands of workers building a Samsung factory fought police and burned vehicles in what was reported as a dispute over safety regulations.

I suppose the folks at Socialist Unity would call them counter-revolutionary hooligans.

It’s unlikely that Vietnam’s government-controlled “trade union” is doing much to help these workers. As the ITUC reports:

The ability of unions that are affiliated to the Vietnam General Confederation of Labour (VGCL) to effectively bargain with management is handicapped by the fact that at many private enterprises, VGCL representatives are either considered by the workers to be close to management or are actually management officials.

Anyone in Vietnam who tries to act independently on behalf of of workers is likely to end up in jail.

Some Australian trade union leaders are speaking out on behalf of their Vietnamese brothers and sisters.

Paul Howes, leader of the Australian Workers’ Union and a genuine trade unionist, posted the following tweet when a branch of the Australian Confederation of Trade Unions hosted leaders of the VGCL:

It resulted in this exchange:

(Another reason to respect Brother Howes: he denounced BDS in an excellent speech to the Zionist Federation of Australia.)

By discouraging contrast, Britain’s TUC passed a resolution in 2010 calling on the General Council to establish closer links with the VGCL. (Shades of the TUC and Cuba.)

On the bright side, the website of the Trade Union Friends of Vietnam (i.e., friends of the phony Vietnamese “trade union”) hasn’t been updated since that group hosted a meeting with Vietnamese “trade union” officials in 2012.