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Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Garment workers plan to strike for higher pay

Garment workers plan to strike for higher pay

A TRADE union representing more than 80,000 garment workers plans to hold a three-day strike next month to demand a 40 percent increase in the minimum wage, despite pleas from the Ministry of Labour that it await the outcome of pending negotiations.

In a letter sent Tuesday, Chea Mony, head of the Free Trade Union of Workers of the Kingdom of Cambodia (FTU), said the intent of the strike, which will run for three days starting July 13, will be to demand that the government raise the minimum wage for garment workers to “at least” US$70 per month. The current monthly minimum wage is $50.

“All the workers should raise their voices in order to achieve a reasonable salary and better conditions for work,” he said in the letter, copies of which will soon be distributed to the 86,000 garment workers the union represents.

Another aim of the strike will be to push for fair treatment of workers at the Tack Fat garment factory in Meanchey district. During a protest last month, some 87 workers there accused management of unfairly cutting their shifts after they refused to accept different positions.

The announcement came less than two weeks after the Labour Ministry urged unionists to hold off on strikes so that minimum wage negotiations could go forward. In a letter dated June 3 and addressed “to all workers”, the ministry’s Labour Advisory Committee said union members should consider staging a strike only after attempts at negotiating a new minimum wage had been exhausted.

“The Labour Advisory Committee would like to call for all workers to practise their rights properly, according to the law,” states the letter, signed by Labour Minister Vong Soth.

Ken Loo, secretary general of the Garment Manufacturers Association in Cambodia, said he welcomed a discussion of the issues raised by Chea Mony in his letter, expressing hope that they would “be put into consideration”.

But Interior Ministry spokesman Khieu Sopheak warned that Chea Mony would face the full extent of the law if the strike led to violence. “Chea Mony will be put in a position to face the law if he does something illegal,” he said Wednesday.

Meanwhile, Chea Mony said Wednesday that he had decided to back away from a previous plan to resign as president of the FTU, announcing that he would run in elections scheduled for June 27.

Chea Mony said on May 16 that he would step down as president, citing health and other reasons. On Wednesday, however, he said FTU members had convinced him to stay on.

“I will continue to serve the workers for three more years as president of FTUWKC in response to the suggestion of workers who sent their petitions to support me,” he said. “They don’t want me to resign. They need me to help them combat factory owners who do not respect Cambodia’s labour laws and who look down on workers”.

He added that no other candidates have been nominated to oppose him in the election.

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