Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - GMAC sees surge in strikes

GMAC sees surge in strikes

Garment factory workers hold placards during a strike at the gates of the Ministry of Labour
Garment factory workers hold placards during a strike at the gates of the Ministry of Labour earlier this year, demanding better working conditions. Kimberley McCosker

GMAC sees surge in strikes

The number of strikes at Cambodia’s garment factories during the first three months of 2015 rose nearly 74 per cent from the same period last year, according to the nation’s garment manufacturers.

In its report covering this year’s first quarter, the Garment Manufacturers Association in Cambodia (GMAC) counted 40 strikes at garment factories in Cambodia between January and March. The number shows a substantial rise from 2014, when GMAC recorded 23 strikes in that timeframe.

“Last year, the violent demonstrations just ended and everyone was on the alert,” GMAC secretary-general Ken Loo said yesterday, accounting for the sharp upwards curve of strikes.

Loo and Moeun Tola, head of the labour department for the Community Legal Education Center, both pointed back to the military shootings at a protest supporting a nationwide garment industry strike turned violent on January 3, 2014, culminating in the shooting deaths of at least five protesters. A subsequent ban on public demonstration made it difficult for any strikes to be organised.

But strikes in the Kingdom’s garment industry picked back up, largely because of poor communication between employers and workers, said Kong Athit, vice president of the Coalition of Cambodian Apparel Workers Democratic Union.

“I think this is the common problem for [everyone] related to industrial relations,” Athit said yesterday. “The employer, the union and the government still have very little involvement with [each other].”

GMAC’s study found that 70 per cent of the strikes involved unions not registered at the factory at which they took place, 8 per cent were carried out by non-union workers and none of the strikes were carried out legally.

But holding a strike deemed legal by the government is close to impossible, said Dave Welsh, country director for labour rights group the Solidarity Center. Employers often refuse to collectively bargain with unions or workers, he said, and government officials are regularly slow to move on workers’ complaints, effectively stalling most attempts to strike legally.

“It’s a bit rich [to call strikes illegal],” Welsh said yesterday. “If the other parties refuse to participate, they can just kind of hold the unions hostage.”

Also noted in GMAC’s report is a belief that some of the strikes were held to enhance a union’s reputation or, as Loo said in an interview yesterday, to “flex their muscles”.

But Tola said that from what he has seen, the strikes have all appeared to have a purpose.

“What we observe so far, is all the strike demands are related mostly to wages and the conditions inside the factory,” Tola said.

MOST VIEWED

  • ‘Education’ a priority traffic-law penalty

    A top National Police official on June 21 neither rejected nor confirmed the authenticity of a leaked audio message, which has gone viral on social media, on a waiver of fines for a number of road traffic-related offences. General Him Yan, deputy National Police chief in

  • Pursat Ford assembly plant opens

    The Kingdom’s first Ford assembly plant was inaugurated on June 16 in Pursat province amid rising demand for brand-new vehicles among Cambodians. The facility is seen as a game changer for the domestic automobile industry, which could bring a wave of investors seeking to cash

  • Siem Reap’s $18M zoo said to educate public, help wildlife

    Angkor Wildlife and Aquarium Co Ltd has invested $18 million in a zoo in Siem Reap province, which will be opened in October to educate and promote animal conservation as well as attract national and international tourists. Currently, the Angkor Wildlife and Aquarium is building the

  • Volunteer scheme to foster ‘virtuous’ humanitarian spirit

    A senior education official said volunteer work contributes to solidarity and promotes a virtuous humanitarian spirit among the youth and communities. Serei Chumneas, undersecretary of state at the Ministry of Education, Youth and Sport, made the comment during the opening of a training programme called “

  • $50B infrastructure plan en route

    The government’s upcoming $50 billion,10-year infrastructure master plan will provide tremendous investment opportunities for domestic and foreign entities, transport experts and economists say. Minister of Public Works and Transport Sun Chanthol revealed the plan to Japanese ambassador to Cambodia Masahiro Mikami on June 15. At

  • Chinese firms unveil preliminary results on metro, monorail for capital

    Minister of Public Works and Transport Sun Chanthol and representatives from China Road and Bridge Corp (CRBC) and its parent company, the state-owned China Communications Construction Co Ltd (CCCC), met on June 24 for talks on results of the firms’ preliminary study on a potential metro