In response to a growing number of strikes in the country’s highly profitable garment sector, the government trained 15 handpicked commune officials yesterday to mediate and resolve factory disputes.
The training was designed to teach commune councillors to defuse and resolve conflict, Buth Ji, director of the World Bank’s Demand for Good Governance (DFGG) project, said, noting that candidates were strategically selected from provinces where industrial disputes are frequent.
“We want commune officials to use the same techniques used by the Arbitration Council to solve the problems created when strikes occur in their communities,” he said.
Liv Sovanna, a trainer and arbitrator working at the Arbitration Council, said minimising social disorder stirred up by industrial disputes was important.
He added that the training would help alleviate the strain placed on provincial courts when faced with a barrage of labour-related lawsuits.
“People are the creators of conflict, and conflict does not allow a society to do well … leading people to use police for conflict resolution,” he said.
What local authorities can’t do without the courts, however, is resolve crime-related disputes, Sovanna added.
The program follows a government directive signed by Prime Minister Hun Sen on June 17, aimed at having industrial disputes solved more often on the local level.
According to the decree, select provincial and municipal officials are given the autonomy to maintain public order during strikes, monitor factory productivity and examine worksites.
Kong Athit, vice president of the Coalition of Cambodian Apparel Workers’ Democratic Union (C.CAWDU), said any government trainings touted as being key to conflict resolution in the garment sector should be conducted by the Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs.
“In my opinion, it won’t work. We need highly trained people experienced with labour arbitration who are capable of working at the same level as the factory workers,” he said.
ADDITIONAL REPORTING BY AMELIA WOODSIDE