The use of fixed-duration contracts (FDCs), particularly in the garment industry, is a major concern of the almost 100 unions that met in Phnom Penh yesterday to launch a national discussion on top labour priorities.
The theme of the two-day conference at the InterContinental Hotel was “The Current Employment Contract Practices and the Need for Its Changes.”
The International Labour Organization and the Trade Union National Conference oversaw the seminar, attended by union representatives from the garment industry, agriculture, tourism and transportation sectors, among others.
Employers use FDCs to hire new workers for up to two years, with an option for renewals.
FDCs have “resulted in tremendous worker insecurity, heightened antagonism between unions and factory management, and a threat to peaceful industrial relations,” according to a 2011 Yale University study called Tearing Apart at the Seams, which examined the way the contracts affect the garment industry.
Ath Thorn, president of the Cambodian Labour Confederation, said employers had used FDCs since 2007, and that among a sample of 600 factories, 90 per cent of them used the contracts.
“We are still deeply worried about the FDC. So today we have the chance to discuss it and raise our concerns to the government before a meeting with the Ministry of Labour,” Ath Thorn said.
The meeting is planned for next month.
Reim Bora, president of the Federal Union of Khmer Democracy Workers, said not only the garment sector used short-term agreements.
“They come from all sectors, unions and provinces. Almost all work sectors use it, but for the garment sector, much more. When an employer uses it, workers work in panic, it’s not a good feeling.”
Seng Sakada, director-general of the Ministry of Labour, said it was a good time for employers and workers to discuss FDCs.
“They should work together, with tolerance. The ministry will discuss it for everyone’s benefit,” he said.
The conference will continue today.
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