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Second union warns of strike

ANOTHER major union is threatening to strike if its wage demands are not met, a labour leader said Tuesday, joining a garment sector union that has already warned it is considering a three-day walkout.

Rong Chhun, president of the Cambodian Independent Teachers Association (CITA) and head of the Cambodian Confederation of Unions (CCU), said he has yet to receive a response to demands made more than a month ago during a Labour Day rally.

At the rally, he asked for reduced work hours for the members of both bodies, a boost to monthly teacher salaries and the creation of a labour court for workers.

“We have not received a response from government officials until now.... If there is no solution for us, then a strike will happen in the very near future,” Rong Chhun said Tuesday, though he declined to give a date for any potential action.

The labour leader said he sent a letter yesterday morning to Prime Minister Hun Sen, reiterating his demands.

“We have not received a response from the authorities more than one month after we raised the issue,” he said. “So I have to send a letter to remind them.”

Rong Chhun’s warning comes as the Free Trade Union of Workers of the Kingdom of Cambodia (FTU) continues to threaten a strike in an effort to advance its own minimum-wage demands. Both the FTU and CITA fall under the umbrella of the Cambodian Confederation of Unions.

The FTU is demanding a 40 percent increase in the monthly minimum wage for its roughly 86,000 members, who work predominantly in the garment sector.

Union president Chea Mony said Tuesday that he is waiting for an official response from employers before asking the Interior Ministry to approve a strike.

Oum Mean, a Labour Ministry secretary of state, said both unions should engage in negotiations before resorting to strikes.

He also cautioned the workers to temper their expectations.

“We want them to get higher wages, but we don’t know how much they will get,” he said.

Garment sector workers and employers have previously agreed to renegotiate minimum monthly wages by the end of the year. Ken Loo, secretary general of the Garment Manufacturers Association in Cambodia, said the FTU should wait to see what the negotiations produce before
threatening labour action.

“The mechanisms are in place for proper negotiations,” Loo said, adding that a strike at this point “would go beyond the framework that was set for minimum wage negotiations.”

At this stage, none of the parties in the garment sector have set a specific date to begin negotiations.

ADDITIONAL REPORTING BY IRWIN LOY

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