Prime Minister Hun Sen yesterday continued his campaign to court the nation’s garment workers, meeting with 4,400 workers’ representatives on Koh Pich and vowing to ensure they received promised benefits, such as a higher minimum wage and health insurance.
After the meeting, the premier took to Facebook to repeat his promise to take workers’ concerns seriously, and also offered another populist pledge to reduce utility costs. “The efforts of the prime minister under the ruling [Cambodian People’s Party] are to take good care of the people,” he said.
He also announced that water prices would decrease from September onwards, from between 1,000 to 1,500 riel per cubic metre to a maximum of 800 riels per cubic metre.
Following his announcement last week that employers will have to pay the entirety of workers’ health insurance starting from January 2018 – instead of 50 percent being paid by the employees, as is currently the case – Hun Sen on Saturday signed a sub-decree amending the rules for all workers registered with the National Social Security Fund.
Garment worker Pa Sineng said she was happy about the benefits, but noted that they came too late. “I remember that in 2013 and 2014, workers protested to get decent wages, but unfortunately [the protests] were cracked down, and [workers] were injured and some even died, but the minimum wage that the government provided was not the wage we asked for,” Sineng said.
The coalition of Cambodian Apparel Workers’ Democratic Union President Ath Thorn echoed the concern and called attention to the fact that the moves come ahead of national elections. “We struggled for many years to get the minimum wages increased, and this year – close to the national election – the prime minister offers a lot of benefits,” he said.
CPP spokespersons Sok Eysan and Sous Yara could not be reached yesterday.