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Union delays strike, seeks discussions

THE head of a union comprising 86,000 garment workers said he sent a letter Wednesday morning to the Garment Manufacturers Association in Cambodia (GMAC) requesting that a date be set for discussions of a proposed 40 percent increase to the minimum wage.

Chea Mony, president of the Free Trade Union of Workers of the Kingdom of Cambodia (FTUWKC), had previously said that the union’s members would strike at the end of May if officials from GMAC and the government had not responded to an earlier request for the minimum wage to be raised from US$50 to $70.

On Wednesday, he said he would give GMAC one week to respond to the new letter before sending another letter to the Labour Ministry.

“If the ministry does not reply within a week,” he said, “then I will send a request to the Interior Ministry for permission to hold the strike.”

In 2006, when an agreement was reached to set the minimum wage for garment workers at its current level of $50 per month, the government and industry representatives agreed to discuss wages again in 2010.

Ken Loo, the secretary general of GMAC, said Wednesday that the new letter from Chea Mony had been received, but that he could not confirm its contents because he was out of the office. He said GMAC “remains committed to the agreement” reached in 2006.

He has previously described Chea Mony’s deadline and strike threat as unreasonable and impractical.

Last week, he wrote a letter requesting intervention from the Labour Ministry to stave off a strike, arguing that previous “illegal strikes” have “given Cambodia a bad reputation”.

He said Wednesday that he had been told by the ministry that it would be issuing “an announcement” concerning the issue at some point within “the next few days”.

Ministry officials could not be reached Wednesday.

In a statement Wednesday, the International Labour Organisation urged all parties to “discuss and agree, in a timely and transparent manner, guidelines and timelines for [wage] negotiations”.

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