The Garment Manufacturers Association in Cambodia has requested a meeting with the Ministry of Labour for employers to air concerns about a proposed bi-monthly payment schedule for workers floated by Minister Ith Sam Heng this month as a way to protect workers in the event of factories going bankrupt.
GMAC, in a letter dated February 23, asks Sam Heng to allow for discussion and to provide time for employers to get ready before enforcing Article 116 of the Labour Law, which already technically requires labourers to be paid at least twice a month.
The article of the law hasn’t been enforced in the past, but the change in enforcement was mentioned during a speech by Sam Heng, along with a proposal for incrementally paying end-of-contract severance pay to help reduce the risk of garment workers being abandoned without pay when companies suddenly close.
Kaing Monika, deputy secretary-general for GMAC, said the ministry hasn’t approached GMAC regarding this issue, though they believe the change will be carried out. “The ministry is taking the issue very seriously,” he said. “We want to make it clear that we don’t have any problems with the law . . . but we just need time.”
Monika said that GMAC recognises the obligation of paying workers at least twice a month, but given that it is also in the midst of a required shift to electronic payments, it would be difficult to implement the new payment schedules without adequate time, Monika said. “Our payroll system is cash-based.”
Not only would employers need more human resources in accounting, but workers would need to be educated about electronic payments, Monika said.
“We need to start by educating the workers,” he said. “They want to see cash . . . They don’t trust [the electronic payment].”
Chan Nan, a factory worker, said she would like to get paid via direct deposit, but it’s difficult for her because she doesn’t know how to read.
As of yesterday, GMAC had not received a response. Ministry spokesman Heng Sour couldn’t be reached.
Pav Sina, president of the Collective Union of Movement of Workers, said he doesn’t object to the changes in the salary schedule, although this particular change would have no effect in protecting workers if a company owner flees without paying their salaries. “The best action would be for the ministry to urge companies to [establish] a budget in the bank for workers [in the event] the factory closes or the employer escapes,” he said.
Additional reporting by Yesenia Amaro