Some 300 members of the Cambodian Confederation of Unions (CCU) protested yesterday, threatening Prime Minister Hun Sen with a mass strike involving thousands of workers if the Kingdom’s garment sector wages are not increased.
Workers at the protest in Phnom Penh’s Freedom Park held banners stating “$61 makes us faint” – referring to the current garment worker minimum monthly wage – and warned the government could expect huge industrial action in the next few months if they did not take action.
CCU president Rong Chhun called on Hun Sen for a raise to $150 per month, which he said was “not too extreme” considering that in neighbouring countries garment workers earn between $170 and $260 per month.
“The workers often faint during their work, because they lack nutrition. To eat, they spend 500 riel [12 cents] to 1,000 riel on their food every day, because their wage is not enough for them to buy good food to eat,” he said.
“Today, we gathered with a lower number of workers, but the huge strike will appear soon with thousands of workers.”
At the protest, where about 100 police and military officials remained on standby but kept their distance, another CCU representative, Thorng Sophorn, put it simply: “We live even worse than pet animals.”
Oum Mean, a secretary of state at the Ministry of Labour, said it was beyond his scope to make any decision about raising wages.
“I cannot make a decision or comment on their demands, because the decision depends on only on the LAC [Labour Advisory Committee] – whether they can increase or disagree,” he said.
Vong Sauth, Labour Minister and president of LAC, could not be reached for comment.
Opposition Sam Rainsy Party spokesman Yim Sovann said at the protest that they had been invited to join the union and were merely supporting them, not agitating.
“Workers work hard every day to earn profit for their employers, so it is not much for workers to need $150 per month for their wage,” he said.
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