Labour Behind the Label

Citizen journalists bring us the real story from the factories

What’s life really like for a Cambodian garment worker?

Garment workers in Cambodia have been struggling for years to make their demands heard for fair wages and working conditions. Now workers are finding their voices and telling their stories by recording their daily lives in photographs and film.

These citizen journalists’ powerful short films reveal the dangers, indignities and impoverishment faced by workers. The films launch on 27 November. Watch the trailer now:

Their films reveal how workers struggle to provide for their families, risk their health in unsafe conditions and put themselves in danger just by travelling to work, which due to their low wages is often done in goods trucks. Thousands of workers were killed in traffic accidents in 2015 alone and unions are calling for factories to provide safe transport for their workers.

Funded by UK charity TRAID, this project brings together Cambodian workers and activists with British filmmakers and campaigners. The garment workers created a citizen journalists’ group in June 2016 with Cambodian workers’ rights group Central. Mentored by film production company Rainbow Collective and supported by Labour Behind the Label, these garment workers are now equipped to tell their own stories and lobby for change in their factories.

The team found early success this year when graphic photographs of workers scraping their skin with coins (“coining”), to cool down from the intense heat in factories, led to the installation of air conditioning systems by an Italian brand sourcing from the factory.

Read more about living conditions, traffic accidents and the practise of ‘coining’

Cambodian garment factories are a major source of clothing for the UK high street, and the relentless fast fashion industry plays a major role in pushing wages down and turning a blind eye to worker safety. It’s important for people to know where their clothes come from and under what conditions they are made. By telling their story, these film-makers have done something truly heroic, standing up to oppression and showing the outside world what life is really like in the garment factories. With powerful stories and evidence like this we can hold brands to account for conditions and pay in their factories, and support the fair demands of the people – most of them women – who make our clothes.

See inside the lives of garment workers with these photos taken by the citizen journalists