In what it deemed an “inspiring trend” for Cambodia’s labour relations, the Arbitration Council reported that the number of cases it registered involving strike action – as well as the total number of cases themselves – declined in the first half of this year.
According to the independent labour dispute mediator’s latest newsletter, while over a quarter of the 174 cases received during the first six months of 2014 involved strike action, only 16 per cent of the 162 cases received for the same time this year did.
“This presents an inspiring trend as more cases followed the national dispute resolution procedure than an escalation in strike action,” it read.
Men Nimmith, acting executive director of the Arbitration Council Foundation, said the change was likely due to the end of garment worker strikes in early 2014.
“I think perhaps it’s [because] it’s after the political situation in 2014, when we had a lot of political issues and the demonstrations that turned violent,” he said.
Nimmith added that the increase in the minimum wage to $128, which went into effect in early 2015, also had a “cool-down” effect on workers and unions.
But Ath Thorn, president of the Coalition of Cambodian Apparel Workers’ Democratic Union, said that strikes were down this year partly because union leaders are “busy with the trade union law and the minimum wage”, two issues slated to be settled by the government towards the end of the year.
Ken Loo, secretary-general of the Garment Manufacturers Association of Cambodia, also said he had not observed a significant improvement in labour relations so far, adding that “strikes that do not follow [legal] procedures” routinely disrupted the industry.