Prime Minister Hun Sen is set to announce he supports demands by unions to establish court as protests planned for Intl Labour Day
Workers protesting outside a garment factory in Takhmao. Labour unions say about 3,000 workers will show up for a May 1 demonstration at the National Assembly.
PRIME Minister Hun Sen said the government would be willing to cooperate with union workers and NGOs to establish a labour court, a demand that unions have been making for years, according to a transcript of a message that is to be read aloud on television station TVK on Friday, International Labour Day.
"A labour court should be created by all relevant parties, including the government, unions and relevant NGOs," the message reads.
The message, dated April 20, does not specify a deadline by which Hun Sen wants a labour court to be established. It does include a call for a working group that would bring together "relevant parties" to reach an agreement on the make-up and jurisdiction of such a court.
The establishment of a labour court is one of the demands that union leaders plan to list in a petition to be filed at both the Council of Ministers and the National Assembly during a demonstration on May 1.
Chea Mony, president of the Free Trade Union of the Workers of the Kingdom of Cambodia (FTU), told the Post on Monday that he expected 3,000 garment and construction workers to attend the demonstration, adding that he had no plans to ask the government for permission to convene it.
But Phnom Penh Deputy Governor Pa Socheatvong said City Hall would not allow the gathering to take place unless union representatives obtain approval.
We have no
objection to the
meeting or to a
parade of workers.
"Workers who want to express their ideas in public on [May 1] need to do so in accordance with the law, meaning they need to get permission from the Phnom Penh Municipality in advance," he said.
He added, "We have no objection to the meeting or to a parade of workers in public on International Labour Day, but they have to ask for permission first."
Sok Sovandeith, president of the Cambodia National Federation of Building and Wood Workers, said he would participate in Friday's demonstration in order to push for the establishment of a labour court and to encourage the government to provide assistance to workers who have lost their jobs.
He said the establishment of a labour court was of particular importance for construction workers.
"Being construction workers, we always lose when we challenge employers in civil court," he said.
He said some 30,000 out of 100,000 construction workers nationwide had lost their jobs since the onset of the downturn.
Chea Mony said he also planned to speak about the effects of the downturn, and how it had exposed workers to unfair treatment at the hands of employers. He said he would also address the proposed amendments to Articles 67 and 73 of the 1997 Labour Law, which govern contract durations.
Union leaders have repeatedly spoken out against the amendments, which they say would allow for the indefinite extension of temporary employment contracts.
Other unions expected to participate in the demonstration include the Cambodian Independent Teachers Association and the Cambodian Labour Confederation. Demonstrators said they will gather at Wat Botum at 8:30am that morning and - in addition to the Council of Ministers and the National Assembly - will visit the site near Wat Lanka where labour leader Chea Vichea was assassinated in 2004.
Also on May 1, the pro-government Cambodian Union Federation will lead a group of 3,200 garment workers to Universal Apparel, a garment factory in Dangkor district. Chuon Mom Thol, the head of the union, said the purpose of the gathering was twofold: to discourage workers from striking and to make sure they have a "fun time".