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Govt pressured to protect garment workers' salaries

Govt pressured to protect garment workers' salaries

081121_14.jpg
081121_14.jpg

A new wage-protection proposal aims to cushion employees from the threat of unemployment amid rising factory closures

Photo by:
TOUCH BUNLY

A garment factory worker in Phnom Penh. A union leader is demanding assurances that bankrupt owners will pay salaries.

AUNION official on Thursday urged the government to implement new salary protections for garment workers amid fears of more factory closures in coming months.

Som Aun, president of the National Union Alliance Chamber of Cambodia, said garment factories should be required to deposit four months' worth of salaries in a bank account for all employees before they are allowed to operate.

"I think these deposits will better ensure the security of workers in the wake of garment factory bankruptcies," he said.

Several garment factories in Cambodia have used bankruptcy as an excuse not to pay their workers, and there should be effective legislation in place to deal with the problem, he said.

"I think if my suggestion is acceptable, many problems will be solved, disputes will be cut down and factory operations will be better than before," he said.

Some 10 factories that closed this year left more than 10,000 workers without pay, according to the union.

Proposal under review

Oum Mean, a secretary of state at the Labour Ministry, said Thursday that he had received the union's suggestion and was considering how best to serve both labour groups  and factories.

"We welcome the union's suggestion, and we think it is good to enforce worker security when factories get into trouble," he said.

But he added that it will take time for both sides to determine the best approach before making any decisions.

The deposit program drew mixed reactions from garment industry officials and factory owners.

Fodsay Yong, managing director of the Supreme Garment Factory, said the deposit requirement was excessive.

"How can we deposit if we don't make enough money," she asked.

But Cheath Khemara, a senior labour officer with the Garment Manufacturers Association of Cambodia, did not dismiss the idea of a deposit

requirement.

He said, however, that factory owners must be treated justly.

Protections for everyone

"It is everyone's responsibility when a factory goes bankrupt, but we have to negotiate better solutions for the garment sector to ensure job

security for workers and lower costs for factories," Cheath Khemara said.

"If the unions demand deposits from factories to protect against bankruptcy, the factories should be able to demand that unions deposit money to protect against losses due to illegal strikes," he added.

Som Aun responded that any such demand for union deposits was spurious and overlooked the fact that factories often abandon workers, not the reverse.

"We have endured many cases in which factory owners ran off without paying workers, and we want legal protection to prevent this," he said.

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