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Labour Ministry told to keep SL talks alive

In a letter sent to the Ministry of Labour and Vocational Training last week, the Council of Ministers encourages the ministry to facilitate talks between garment factory management and the union representing thousands of workers on strike for nearly two months.

The letter, written by Council of Ministers undersecretary Khun Chinken, instructed Ministry of Labour officials not to pursue legal complaints against C.CAWDU, which represents striking workers at SL Garment Processing.

The C.CAWDU-led strike has twice been deemed illegal by Phnom Penh Municipal Court.

“Keep meeting to find a resolution between both parties,” the letter reads. “Suspend all court procedures, and strongly encourage SL management to participate in negotiations and cooperate.”

Although the government has mediated several failed talks between C.CAWDU and SL management since about 6,000 workers began walking off the job almost two months ago, Kong Athit, the union’s vice-president, is cautiously optimistic.

“It’s difficult to guess [how future negotiations will go], because the situation now is a little different from the past behaviour of the government,” Athit said yesterday. “The point is, how strong they are going to enforce the real negotiation or good-faith negotiation?”

Among other points, workers are demanding a wage raise, a free lunch program and the dismissal of shareholder Meas Sotha, who hired military police officers to stand guard inside the factory.

An SL administrator who spoke on condition of anonymity said yesterday that strikers’ “unreasonable” demands would make a successful negotiation difficult.

“I don’t see anything changing,” said the administrator, who noted that strikers still gather in front of the factory each morning. “I don’t understand what’s wrong with them.”

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