Gathering an audience of around 100 union members in Kandal province’s Kandal Stung district on Sunday, a Building Woodworkers Trade Union of Cambodia (BWTUC) forum called for robust government enforcement of safety standards on building sites and a more concerted effort on the part of the Ministry of Labour to provide accident and health insurance to construction workers.
“[The] Ministry of Labour should check if the companies pay [injury insurance] through the National Social Security Fund (NSSF) due to accidents, and health care insurance,” said BWTUC representative Sok Kin, arguing the government should not permit unlicensed construction companies to operate. “If the government can improve all these issues, the construction workers may get better care and lower risk in their work.''
Solidarity Centre programme officer Khun Tharo said that according to a March survey his organisation conducted of 1,000 construction workers at 50 construction sites across Phnom Penh, only 9 percent were registered with the NSSF. While construction workers make an average $7.50 a day – more than the minimum wage in the more visible and formalised garment sector – Tharo said the constant threat of injury on building sites presents a major threat to workers’ safety and financial security.
“Workers face very high risk, such as falling down from the buildings ... electrocution, construction equipment falling down on them,” said BWTUC representative Sok Kin.
Commenting on the BWTUC’s concerns, Moeun Tola of the labour rights group Central, said the high number of unlicensed sub-contractors employing construction workers presented a significant obstacle to ensuring proper safety standards on construction sites and participation in the NSSF.
Speaking at a construction site near Phnom Penh’s Monivong Boulevard yesterday afternoon, construction worker To Toy, 32, explained that while he worked for an unlicensed subcontractor, his employer promised to pay for his health expenses. However, said Toy, the employer was a “friend” from his native Kampong Cham; none of his previous employers offered to pay for his medical expenses if he was injured on the job.
Toy said he hoped to one day have injury insurance and health insurance, adding that irregular employment by subcontractors made these services inaccessible to him.
The Ministry of Labour did not respond to requests for comment.