Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Hun Sen vows benefits for factory workers



Hun Sen vows benefits for factory workers

Content image - Phnom Penh Post
Prime Minister Hun Sen poses for a photograph with garment factory representatives yesterday on Phnom Penh’s Koh Pich. Facebook

Hun Sen vows benefits for factory workers

Garment factory workers will receive free health care, free access to public transport in Phnom Penh and a minimum wage increase to at least $168 per month, Prime Minister Hun Sen announced following a gathering of thousands of garment industry employees yesterday.

Ou Ratana, a Labour Ministry official and organiser of the event, said that between 4,500 and 4,700 people from 93 factories attended the speech on Phnom Penh’s Koh Pich, including factory managers, supervisors and their assistants.

Low level factory workers – who comprise a voting bloc hundreds of thousands strong – were not invited, and only a few seemingly pro-government unions attended, and only in their capacity as government advisers, Labour Ministry spokesman Heng Sour said yesterday. “We did not invite unions [in general],” he said, without offering further explanation.

After the speech, Hun Sen said on Facebook he had convened the gathering “to hear their concerns about their working conditions”, adding that he would host similar events every Sunday, and visit workers every Wednesday.

Garment industry representatives attend a gathering hosted by Prime Minister Hun Sen yesterday on Phnom Penh’s Koh Pich.
Garment industry representatives attend a gathering hosted by Prime Minister Hun Sen yesterday on Phnom Penh’s Koh Pich. Facebook

In addition to the health care and salary promises, the premier said that garment factory workers in Phnom Penh would be able to use the existing public buses for free for two years, starting immediately.

William Conklin, country director of labour rights organisation Solidarity Center, welcomed the move as it could prevent frequent accidents involving commuting garment workers, but said long-term initiatives should be undertaken, and added that “buses would have to link to the factories themselves”.

And Moeun Tola, of labour rights organisation Central, said that he was concerned the promises were merely a political move to gain votes ahead of national election in 2018, and worried they wouldn’t lead to substantial change. “I don’t want to see political motivation in this issue,” he said. “Two years [of free public transport] will not be able to fix [the issue].”

Per the premier’s announcement, starting on January 1, employers will have to pay all costs for workers’ health insurance, which had previously cost workers 1.3 percent of their salary. Choong Wei Piau, general manager at Canteran Apparel and Quality Textile factories, said this would cost him “a few thousand dollars” per factory.

“I don’t think we can do anything about it,” he said. “We just need to follow what the government decides.”

Prime Minister Hun Sen speaks to garment industry representatives yesterday on Phnom Penh's Koh Pich.
Prime Minister Hun Sen speaks to garment industry representatives yesterday on Phnom Penh's Koh Pich. Facebook

Although Central’s Tola welcomed free health care in general, he said Cambodia’s health care system as such was too poor. “Even the prime minister goes out of Cambodia when he’s sick,” he said.

Perhaps most significantly, the prime minister also promised to increase the minimum wage – a perennial issue that has sparked mass protests in years past, including after national elections in 2013 – from $153 to at least $168.

However, Ath Thorn, of the Cambodian Labour Confederation, said wages still had to be higher. “We conducted research and found that the cost of living . . . is more than $200,” he said.

Garment worker Eang Mealea also expressed concern that the wage increase wasn’t enough. “I am happy . . . but my concern is every time we get a wage increase, I get more pressure at work, as I need to reach a higher target,” she said. “And the rent also increases every year.”

MOST VIEWED

  • Kingdom's Covid cluster cases jump to 194

    The Ministry of Health on February 25 confirmed 65 new cases of Covid-19, with 58 linked to the February 20 community transmission. The latest cluster cases include nine Vietnamese nationals, five Cambodians, one each from Korea, Singapore and Japan, with the rest being Chinese. This brings the total number

  • Locations shut, dozens more Covid-19 positive

    The Ministry of Health has closed 23 locations in connection with the February 20 community transmission of Covid-19 and summoned for testing anyone who had direct contact with affected people and places. The number of discovered related infections has risen to 76, including 39 women. In a press release,

  • Cambodia's Covid cluster cases rise to 137

    The Ministry of Health on February 24 recorded 40 more cases of Covid-19, with 38 linked to the February 20 community transmission. Of the 40, two are imported cases involving Chinese passengers. The 38 include two Vietnamese nationals and one Cambodian, with the rest being Chinese. This brings the total cases

  • Covid cluster raises alarm, health bodies urge vigilance

    The Ministry of Health and the World Health Organisation (WHO) in Cambodia have expressed great concern over the February 20 cluster transmission of Covid-19 in the community. Both entities appealed for vigilance and cooperation in curbing further spread of the virus. Ministry spokeswoman Or Vandine said

  • PM confirms third Covid-19 community transmission

    Prime Minister Hun Sen on February 20 announced the Kingdom's third outbreak of Covid-19 community transmission after 32 people tested positive in just over 10 hours. Addressing the public from his residence after an emergency meeting, Hun Sen said: "I dub it February 20 Community Event, in which 32 cases

  • Cambodia's cluster cases jump to 259

    The Ministry of Health on February 27 recorded 26 more cases of Covid-19 linked to the February 20 community transmission, bringing the total to 259 in one week. The 26 include three Vietnamese nationals and one Cambodian, with the rest being Chinese. The ministry noted that five of the Chinese