The leaders of 18 unions and union confederations this week will invite ruling and opposition party members to take part in a public forum where labour relations issues will be discussed.
Rong Chhun, president of the Cambodian Confederation of Unions (CCU), yesterday said the letters have already been drafted and signed, with the forum to take place before a stay-at-home strike planned for later this month.
“We will send the letter to those officials tomorrow or Tuesday to invite them to join our public forum,” Chhun said.
Among those called to join are Minister of Labour Ith Sam Heng, Deputy Prime Minister Keat Chhon and leaders of the Cambodia National Rescue Party, Chhun added.
The forum, which is scheduled to take place on International Women’s Day next Saturday, is the next step in garment workers’ persistent protest of the government’s failure to set the industry’s minimum monthly wage at $160 and the continued detention of 21 garment workers arrested at demonstrations supporting a nationwide garment worker strike in early January.
Workers at some garment factories last week boycotted overtime work. If no progress is made on their demands, workers will stage a strike, during which they will stay home from work, but not hold any public demonstrations, from March 12 until at least March 19.
Moeun Tola, head of the labour program at the Community Legal Education Center, yesterday said that the unions had filed a request last Thursday with authorities to hold their forum at Freedom Park.
“Normally the municipality says yes,” Tola said yesterday. “But the unions are already committed to celebrating the evening, whether the municipality says ‘yes’ or ‘no’.”
A statement issued by the Garment Manufacturers Association in Cambodia yesterday says unions’ continued demands for higher wages is harming the garment sector.
“Many factories have reported reductions in orders beginning in April,” the statement says. “Many buyers have evaluated and now consider Cambodia a high-risk country.”
ADDITIONAL REPORTING BY SEAN TEEHAN