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Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - PM says multiple unions fact of life

PM says multiple unions fact of life

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pm.jpg

Khem Sovanara

Prime Minister Hun Sen greeting representatives from the private sector.

The Garment Manufacturer Association in Cambodia is concerned about the increasing

strength of unions and illegal strikes, which it says disturb the process of garment

production.

Van Sou Ieng, president of GMAC, said more than 1,100 union locals have registered

to operate in just 304 factories, meaning there is an average of four union locals

per factory, though some factories have as many as seven. He said managers are spending

half of their time just negotiating with all the unions. There are too many strikes

that are not in compliance with the legal procedure for striking. "The factory

is becoming a place where unions fight for popularity as they seek to win members,"

Sou Ieng said at the 12th Government-Private Sector Forum on September 4, held at

the government palace and presided over by Prime Minister Hun Sen.

"This is to the detriment of the workers."

Sou Ieng said the garment workers are very diligent, but many unscrupulous union

locals are doing harm to what is a good industrial relationship between management

and workers.

Nang Sothy, co-chairman of the Industrial Relations Working Group, said the private

sector finds many trade unions in each factory and disputes arise when sometimes

the union representatives do not agree among themselves.

"If one factory has one union then dispute resolution will be easier,"

Sothy explained to Hun Sen. "If there is only one trade union at the national

level, any big or small issue will be resolved quickly because any decision will

be made unanimously."

Sothy said there are normally 150 to 200 strikes per year that are not following

the procedure of the law. He said the strikes arise when the factories are trying

hard to produce for export.

Hun Sen said it is impossible to have just one union at one factory because the rights

to set up unions were guaranteed by the Constitutional Council. "We could not

abuse the Constitutional Council," he said. "Employers and employees have

to follow the law."

Hun Sen had appealed to the factory owners to increase the nightshift work so that

more workers will be employed and there will be greater incentive to promoting an

understanding between the employers and employees to end the work disputes.

"If we increase the understanding the problem will be solved and the strikes

will be decreased," he told the forum attended by hundreds of participants.

Chea Mony, president of the Free Trade Union, one of the largest unions operating

in the garment industry, told the Post he supported GMAC's idea to have one union

in each factory because other unions in the factory are being set up not by the workers,

but by politicians or factory owners themselves for their own benefit. "If the

employers respect the labor law, strikes will not happen," Mony said. "Most

of the unions set up just for their own benefit, not for the benefit of the workers."

Som Aun, president of the Cambodia Labor Union Federation and also of the National

Union Alliance Chamber of Cambodia, disputed the GMAC official's figures. He also

said in an interview that strikes have decreased in the last few years. He said the

1,100 union locals figure is an old statistic and the latest figure is about 700

union locals registered.

More than 350,000 Cambodian workers are employed in the garment sector, though other

business activities such as transportation, hotels and food services sustain an additional

employment of at least 100,000.

Private sector leaders in all industrial sectors of the Cambodian industry also spoke.

Each representative raised their concerns to the head of the government.

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