PRESSURE is mounting to keep workers living in Phnom Penh at home as Covid-19 infections spread across the country.
Ministry of Labour and Vocational Training spokesman Heng Sour told The Post that as of March 20, more than 50 factories had filed for work suspension, affecting nearly 30,000 workers.
Collective Union of Movement of Workers (CUMW) president Pav Sina told The Post on Monday that the total may be even higher than that. He said the suspensions were caused by a lack of raw materials in some cases and a lack of buyers in others.
However, Sina said the suspensions could work in the employees’ favour. “Work suspension is good at the moment. Even though workers will face some financial difficulties, they might be safe from Covid-19 infections.
“Given the situation now, workers don’t seem to want to work as they are worried about the spread of Covid-19. This disease is continuing to escalate,” he said.
National Trade Union Confederation (NTUC) president Fa Saly said on Monday that the NTUC would like to appeal to the Cambodian government, especially the Ministry of Labour and Vocational Training, to temporarily stop workers at workshops, factories and enterprises in Phnom Penh to mitigate the risk of spreading Covid-19.
He said Covid-19 had caused workers in the capital to worry. Many of them don’t practice good hygiene in the workplace or during meals, which is why suspending work is important to mitigate the risk of spreading the disease, Saly said.
“Workers mingle and eat meals together. They don’t learn much about practising good hygiene and there’s not enough hand washing alcohol or soap in factories and enterprises.
“When eating food outside, there isn’t soap and water for them to wash their hands. Food is insanitary. The food is handled by one person to another, including vendors. That is a challenging problem,” he said.
Last Monday, Sour announced at a press conference that Covid-19 would force around 200 factories to close due to a shortage of raw materials. This, he said would mean some 160,000 workers could face joblessness in March and April.
On February 24, Prime Minister Hun Sen announced that all workers employed by suspended factories should receive at least 60 per cent of the minimum wage. Employers would be required to pay 40 per cent while the government would provide the other 20 per cent.
Bun Vann, an employee at a factory in Phnom Penh told The Post on Monday that worries over Covid-19 were felt by all workers. But some didn’t want the factories to be closed or suspended because they wouldn’t be able to cope with the loss of income.
“I am worried about it, but I don’t want the factories to close. All workers owe banks money. So, they will run into a lot of difficulties. We are worried about factory closures and we are afraid of the coronavirus. Only a small number of workers want the factories to be closed.
“We’re also worried that the European community won’t place orders for our goods. These are overlapping problems,” he said.