Prime Minister Hun Sen has called on unions, employers and the Ministry of Labour to take a collaborative approach to stamping out violent protests in the garment industry, a unionist said yesterday.
During a Saturday conference involving 4,000 people from more than 60 union groups, Hun Sen said each group must work to “improve the atmosphere in the garment sector”, according to Som Aun, president of the Cambodian Labour Union Federation.
The call came just days after the Cambodia Chamber of Commerce and the Garment Manufacturers Association in Cambodia asked the prime minister to help them combat violent strikes that it said were being spearheaded by unions using “mafia-type tactics”.
Rong Chhun, president of the Cambodian Confederation of Unions, however, said yesterday that strikes were occurring only because employers weren’t respecting the labour law or Arbitration Council rulings and were discriminating against union leaders.
“Strike and demonstrations are last resorts,” he said. “They reflect that officials haven’t dealt with the problems.”
GMAC secretary-general Ken Loo said Hun Sen had responded indirectly to the association and the Chamber of Commerce’s request, but more needed to be done.
“However, nobody but the unions can decide whether or not to follow the law,” Loo said.
“We just ask for police to maintain public order. We do not need people to be arrested, but we want to see that factory gates are not blocked.”
Loo disputed claims made by Coalition of Cambodian Apparel Workers’ Democratic Union (C.CAWDU) president Ath Thorn in the Post last week that his union had conducted only one strike this year.
“[C.CAWDU] has conducted strikes at four other factories,” he said. “We have evidence they have conducted strikes in factories where they have a CBA [collective bargaining agreement].”
Ath Thorn could not be reached for comment.
About 5,000 workers intend to use International Labour Day tomorrow to march a petition to the National Assembly, government and general-secretariat of ASEAN to lobby for better working conditions.
The Ministry of Labour and Phnom Penh city hall have agreed to allow the demonstration, provided that political parties and violence are not involved.
Work-related accidents kill more than 1,500 people a year, while about 3,000 contract work-related diseases, the ILO says.