Monthly Archives: September 2010

Rising Labor Militancy In Asia, Is This A Trend?

Cambodian workers attend a rally during a strike last week at the Chinese-owned Pine Great Cambodia Garment Co. in Phnom Penh. (Chor Sokunthea, Reuters / September 12, 2010)

In the wake of the garment workers strikes in Cambodia that have involved the walkout of 30,000 – 60,000 workers at factories supplying a number of international brands (Adidas, GAP, Puma), there is talk in the press about increased labor militancy in Asia.  This AFP article (“Global brands face growing labour militancy in Asia“) points to protests in Vietnam, Cambodia, Indonesia, China, Bangladesh, and India as making up a trend of rising labor militancy.  This comes about a month after the Financial Times also ran a very similar article on increased labor militancy in Asia.

While one can point to newsworthy labor protests in the past year in many countries in South & Southeast Asia, it’s still worth raising the question of whether this is a “trend” or not.  Can we say that minimum wage protests in Indonesia, garment worker strikes in Cambodia, and autoworker strikes in China are part of the same phenomenon?

I won’t be so bold as to attempt to answer this question.  I must admit I was initially skeptical, particularly when the AFP article’s Indonesian example was minimum wage protests on May Day, which might be consider a run-of-the-mill, annual occurrence.  However, it will interesting to continue watching the coverage for evidence that this is a trend.  For example, to the credit of the Financial Times article, they do put forward one possible cause, the rising prices of basic goods.

Also of interest is a quote in an LATimes article on the Cambodian garment strikes from Ath Thun,  president of the Coalition of Cambodian Apparel Workers’ Democratic Union, which puts it in similar terms:

Those protests [in other countries] encouraged us.  Garment workers in those countries received more wages when they protested, so we thought we should too, since our wages are also unacceptably low.

In the coming weeks, it will be interesting to see how this is covered and arguments about the cause of what some are calling a trend in labor militancy in Asia.

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Labor Violations At Internationally Funded Road Project

A survey conducted by the Asian Labor Network in International Financing Institutions (ALNI), an organization made up of 22 labor unions, found labor violations in an Asian Development Bank funded road project in West Kalimantan.  According to the report, the violations include workers working without safety equipment, not receiving social security benefits, workers living in roadside barracks without electricity or sanitation, and a large portion of the workers receiving wages below the provincial minimum wage.  Perhaps most importantly, the leader of the survey, Lukman Hakim, points out that workers “have neither collective agreements nor a forum to fight for the improvement of poor labor conditions.”

Value Of Domestic Workers Felt In Their Absence

Considering the significant role of domestic helpers, I think it is necessary for us to declare this job as a profession with legal guarantees for both workers and their bosses – Lita Anggraeni, National Committee for Housemaid Advocacy (Jala PRT)

With some many of Jakarta’s domestic workers returning to their home villages for Ramadan, National Committee for Housemaid Advocacy (Jala PRT) has taken the opportunity to use the difficulties families face in their absence as evidence of the value of domestic labor.  According to a survey of upper class families in South Jakarta conducted by Jala PRT, a family’s average daily household expenditures went from Rp 67,000 (US$7.43) with a housemaid to between Rp 175,000 to Rp 241,000 without a domestic helper.