AN argument has blown up between the government and a leading trade union over the number of garment workers thought to have lost their jobs due to the economic crisis.
Chea Mony, president of the Free Trade Union of the Workers of the Kingdom of Cambodia, told the Post Sunday that he estimated 63,000 workers had lost their jobs since the economy was hit last year, a figure he based on the closure of 78 garment factories represented a monthly loss of US$3.5 million in wages.
"The garment sector is very fragile in the face of the global economic crisis," Chea Mony said. "Many more workers face unemployment if the government fails to remove corrupt officials and ... strengthen effective implementation of the law."
The union's estimate was rejected by Um Mean, secretary of state at the Ministry of Labour and Vocational Training, who said most workers had been re-employed and that fewer than 20,000 workers were jobless.
"We cannot depend on the union's figures because the ministry has collected its own statistics, which are more accurate," he said on Sunday.
However, Um Mean was unable to provide the government figures, saying the officials responsible were not at work.
The union's figures were endorsed by the Garment Manufacturers Association of Cambodia, whose labour issues official Cheath Khemara said the situation would improve if workers and factory owners worked together to weather the global economic crisis.