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Bonuses ‘won’t end strikes’

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Strikers take a break during a protest outside the Conpress Holdings (Cambodia) garment factory in Phnom Penh yesterday. Photograph: Vireak Mai/Phnom Penh Post

Strikers take a break during a protest outside the Conpress Holdings (Cambodia) garment factory in Phnom Penh yesterday. Photograph: Vireak Mai/Phnom Penh Post

A pay rise for the nation’s garment workers is imminent, but if recent strikes are anything to go by, the US$10 monthly increase from September 1 won’t be enough to stop them from walking off the job.

Central to the demands of strikers at four garment factories in Kampong Speu, Phnom Penh and Kandal provinces this week has been an increase in bonuses and allowances.

In all cases, those demands have exceeded next month’s approved wage increase and have led to unionists being sacked.

More than 500 workers at King First Industrial in Kandal province’s Ang Snuol district yesterday entered their third day of a strike triggered by the sacking of three unionists.

Their reinstatement is paramount, but so are the workers’ demands for better pay, Free Trade Union official Yann Roth Keopisey said.

“[Their] demands include a $10 transport or accommodation allowance, $15 per month for lunches [and] a $12 attendance bonus,” he said.

The Labour Advisory Council, which is part of the Ministry of Labour, agreed last month to a $7 transport or accommodation allowance for garment workers and a $3 increase to their attendance bonus, increasing the minimum wage for a full month of work from $73 to $83.

Sok Vong, one of the three sacked Free Trade Union workers, said employees had a right to have their demands voiced.

“They sacked us illegally,” he said.

An unnamed factory representative said management had offered transport allowances and attendance bonuses before the LAC’s announcement.

“The sacked unionists are inciting strikers in order to . . . get more members,” she said.

About 200 workers at the Calacam Investment factory in Kampong Speu were also on strike yesterday, demanding management reinstate three workers sacked after they lobbied for better pay.

Similar strikes, involving about 100 workers, at Conpress Holdings (Cambodia) factory in Phnom Penh and Cosmo Textile factory in Kandal province were also playing out.

Roth Keopisey said next month’s pay increase is unlikely to reduce such strikes.

“The amount ... approved is so small that it cannot help their living standards, because the cost of rent [also] increases.”

To contact the reporter on this story: Mom Kunthear at kunthear.mom@phnompenhpost.com
With assistance from Shane Worrell

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