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Boycott plan divides unions

Protesting factory workers from Huy Chien Garment Factory gather outside the National Assembly
Protesting factory workers from Huy Chien Garment Factory gather outside the National Assembly last month. Heng Chivoan

Boycott plan divides unions

Several labour unions support the plans of the two independent unions on the government’s Labour Advisory Committee (LAC) to boycott a vote on the minimum wage for garment workers, while at least one unions said the action would be detrimental.

Eight independent unions will meet Wednesday to decide whether the two on the LAC will carry out the boycott. Supporters of the idea say it will strip the veneer of legitimacy from the body that will essentially decide next year’s minimum wage in Cambodia’s garment sector, said Ath Thorn, president of the Coalition of Cambodian Workers’ Democratic Union (C.CAWDU) and an LAC member.

“[They] believe if we don’t boycott, the government and companies will just get their amount and not consider the workers’ amount,” Thorn said yesterday. “If we boycott, at least the LAC loses its good image, because [independent] unions are not involved.”

C.CAWDU and the National Independent Federation Textile Union of Cambodia (NIFTUC) are the only independent unions on the LAC. The boycott, which was proposed at a meeting on Tuesday, comes after a minimum wage working group did not send unions’ proposal for a monthly minimum salary of $140 to the LAC.

“I do support the boycott because we are not happy with the wage that [was] sent to the LAC,” said Fa Saly, president of the National Trade Union Confederation, referring to the working group’s suggestion of either $110 or $121.

But boycotting will simply weaken unions’ ability in the LAC to advocate for higher wages, said Chuon Mom Thol, president of the typically government-leaning Cambodian Union Federation.

Mom Thol, who has been pressing for $140, said a NIFTUC and C.CAWDU boycott may slow things down. “If they boycott, it will mean the meeting will get delayed, and the [higher] payments get delayed; the more you delay the [wage increase] the more happy the employers are.”

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