Workers from the Yung Wah Industrial (Cambodia) factories block a road in Kandal province earlier this year. Photograph: Vireak Mai/Phnom Penh Post
Prime Minister Hun Sen yesterday issued extensive orders to unions, factories, workers and authorities to rid the garment industry of violent strikes, roadblocks and rights violations he says are threatening public order.
“There have been many strikes and demonstrations at factories recently, and, in some cases, it’s led to violence and public and private property being destroyed,” Hun Sen said in a statement.
“The national police, military police and relevant officials have to take strong measures to stop all violence, the roadblocks . . . and people being detained and injured.”
Unions, the prime minister added, must stop forcing workers to strike; factories need to improve working conditions and respect ILO conventions protecting workers’ rights; and government ministries should provide better mediation and policy to prevent strikes.
The prime minister also became publicly involved in labour issues last week when he insisted an extra $2 be added to a proposed $12 hike in the $61 monthly minimum wage.
The Labour Advisory Committee is expected to rubberstamp an increase to $75 today.
Although working conditions in factories and the minimum wage have been labelled hot-button issues ahead of July’s national election, Ken Loo, Garment Manufacturers Association in Cambodia secretary-general, said it was not unusual for Hun Sen to publicly weigh in on such issues.
Loo believed the prime minister’s statement was a direct result of a meeting GMAC had with the Ministry of Social Affairs last Friday.
“We asked them to implement an existing [labour] law they have been trying to strengthen,” he said. “Our hope is the relevant authorities will carry out instructions to enforce the rule of law when workers . . . [engage in] illegal and violent strikes.”
Rong Chhun, president of the Cambodian Confederation of Unions (CCU), said he supported Hun Sen’s orders for employers to recognise the rights of workers and union rights.
He believed, however, the prime minister’s statement was more a response to CCU’s threats of a massive strike for a higher minimum wage.