The garment manufacturing industry is angry at an October 10 Ministry of Labor (MOSALVY)
directive that requires manufacturers to register all mainland Chinese employees
and obtain work permits for them through a private firm.
The firm will charge $400 per employee - four times the current cost - for the compulsory
service. MOSALVY's department of manpower and employment said employers must complete
the process before the end of the year or face punitive action.
The directive affects all firms with mainland Chinese employees, but has particularly
angered the garment industry. Seventy percent of Cambodia's foreign workforce works
in the sector, and most of these workers are Chinese: around 8,000 work in technical
and middle management positions in the garment industry.
MOSALVY has awarded the contract to the Cambodia International Manpower Management
Co (CIMM), and said the move was necessary to prevent frequent disputes between Chinese
employees and their employers and "check illegal Chinese labor in the Kingdom,
under our agreement with the Chinese government".
Hou Vudthy, a director in the employment department at MOSALVY, told the Post November
7 that the ministry would now strictly enforce the law. All those working without
a permit would have to pay the fee, and that fees for those who had not registered
would be applied as far back as the employee's first day of work. In some cases this
meant firms would have to pay several years' charges.
"We are being considerate by not insisting on the payment of a penalty. The
government has also decided not to enforce the law, for now, in the cases of those
employed with the UN or NGOs," he said.
The Kingdom's labor law of 1997 requires all private commercial establishments employing
foreigners to obtain an annual work permit or face punitive action, which can include
the employee's expulsion. That has not been enforced.
Garment manufacturers are unwilling to give up.
"Why should we be forced to go to a particular company and pay according to
its demands, when we can easily go to the government directly and register our employees?"
asked the secretary-general of the Garment Manufacturers Association of Cambodia.
"We are not accepting the ministry's directive and are trying to get an appointment
with the labor minister to ask him to withdraw this order of compulsory registration
through a private company," he said.
CIMM's vice general manager, Xie Jian Hua said the fee was not solely for obtaining
work permits. His company, he said, would also be responsible for drafting fair employment
contracts to protect both employees and employers.
"The mainland Chinese government is very strict in enforcing its regulations
on the export of its workforce. But the employers [in the garment sector] have long
flouted those regulations by leaving it to workers to obtain a work permit or not
honoring the original promises," he said.
In some cases, Xie said, Chinese employers would deduct one third of local employees'
salaries as a deposit against any damages by them, then sack the local employees
and keep these deposits.