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Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Unionists cry foul over rejection

Unionists cry foul over rejection

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A K-Cement worker stands next to bags of cement. Photograph: Heng Chivoan/Phnom Penh Post

K-Cement workers who were told they could not form a company-wide union because their workplaces were “separate” entities have now had their application to register individual unions rejected by the Ministry of Labour, union leaders said yesterday.

Sok Kin, vice president of the Building and Woodworkers Trade Union Federation of Cambodia, said the ministry had denied union registration to workers at four K-Cement sites in Kampot province.

“This is the second time that the ministry has rejected the registration,” he said. “K-Cement has filed a complaint asking the ministry to reject our application – and they did. That’s why we can’t get it.”

Kin said he believed K-Cement was continuing to shut down workers’ attempts at unionising because it did not want to pay benefits it was required to under the Labour Law.

“When the workers have their own union, they will begin making demands,” he said.

Many of the more than 1,000 workers at nine sites operated by Thai-owned K-Cement, also known as Kampot Cement, have consistently faced opposition in their bid to register a union over the past two years.

Workers claim that those trying to rally their colleagues have been dismissed or, in one case, banished to another site, far from their supporters, and told to tend to chickens.

Dave Welsh, country director for the American Center for International Labor Solidarity, said K-Cement wanted to treat all of its sites as individual companies, thus preventing dealing workers from forming a single union but was still making it difficult for each individual factory union to register.

“This is something that should have been resolved 18 months ago,” he said. “[K-Cement is saying things like ‘the union can’t call itself K-Cement union’, but the fact is, the union can call themselves whatever they want.”

Welsh said it had become a “ludicrous” situation in which the Ministry of Labour was not following its own guidelines.

“[Workers] are facing every possible roadblock and the Ministry of Labour is allowing it to happen.”

Huon Soeur, deputy director of the Ministry of Labour’s disputes department, and representatives of K-Cement could not be reached for comment yesterday.

To contact the reporter on this story: Shane Worrell at shane.worrell@phnompenhpost.com

Mom Kunthear at kunthear.mom@phnompenhpost.com

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