Labour union officials say inflation and Cambodia’s national election contributed to a nearly 300 per cent increase in strikes last year over 2012.
An annual study of Cambodia’s labour market released yesterday by the Free Trade Union counted 381 industrial strikes in the Kingdom in 2013. The FTU reported just 101 strike actions for 2012.
“The high cost of merchandise, rental houses and food is the reason why the number of strikes is increasing so much,” FTU president Chea Mony told the Post yesterday. “When everything gets more expensive, it leads to workers demanding pay raises and increased benefits.”
Among the wage-driven strikes last year was a national garment worker strike that began on December 24 after the Ministry of Labour set the 2014 minimum monthly wage for garment and shoe factory employees at $95, a figure $65 less than the $160 unions demanded. A week later, the Labour Ministry raised the 2014 floor wage to $100, but unions balked at the small increase and continued striking.
Employees in Cambodia’s garment sector are the only workers for whom a minimum wage has been established. They currently earn $80 per month, which includes a $5 health bonus.
Chuon Mom Thol, president of the pro-government Cambodian Union Federation, yesterday rejected the idea that inflation was the primary reason for the jump in strikes, instead blaming opposition politicians for stirring resentment in the wake of July’s disputed election.
“I think the number of strikes increased because, during election season, some politicians and unionists wanted to become famous,” Mom Thol said. “They tried to incite anger among workers, who then went on strike.”
In addition to strike data, the study reported that 802 workers fainted and one died on the job last year.
Neither Vong Sovann of the Labour Ministry nor ministry spokesman Heng Sour could be reached yesterday.