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Garment union demands go unanswered

Garment union demands go unanswered

Despite repeated threats of strikes, a coalition of garment sector unions is still waiting on a response from the Ministry of Labour for the wide-ranging reforms it called for last month, with plans to seek help from overseas.

On October 21, nine unions released a letter with 13 demands after next year’s minimum wage for the sector was set at $140 per month, $20 lower than unions had sought.

The demands range from ending the use of short-term contracts to instituting a minimum wage in other parts of the economy.

But almost three weeks later, neither the ministry nor employers have responded, prompting the unions to lobby international actors to apply pressure.

Ath Thorn, president of the Coalition of Cambodian Apparel Workers Democratic Union, said the unions were busy writing letters to the International Trade Unions Congress and labour rights group IndustriALL, along with ongoing discussions with Western brands.

“We don’t have a deadline [for the ministry],” said Thorn, who added the group would re-send its demands at the end of this week or early next week.

However, Ministry of Labour spokesman Heng Sour said the ministry had already received the exact same demands from the unions on October 8, the day the final minimum wage was announced.

Sour said the ministry would consider some of the unions’ proposals one by one, but that there was “no way and no grounds” for unions to make demands related to the minimum wage, as it was already decided upon.

“That is a separate issue,” he said.

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