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Labour initiative launches

Garment workers gather during a protest in front of T&K Cambodia factory on Phnom Penh’s Veng Sreng Boulevard
Garment workers gather during a protest in front of T&K Cambodia factory on Phnom Penh’s Veng Sreng Boulevard early last month. Pha Lina

Labour initiative launches

The Cambodian Labour Confederation (CLC), the country’s largest independent union collective, yesterday launched a program aimed at bolstering union influence, strengthening negotiating skills to avoid strikes and improving working conditions for women and youths.

The new initiative – a joint effort of the CLC and the National Confederation of Christian Trade Unions in the Netherlands (known as CNV, its Dutch acronym) – is largely funded by the European Union.

It will focus on strengthening CLC’s lobbying and promoting core labour standards for young people and women, said Jan Ridder, a CNV program officer.

“The program is not politically directed and not politically involved. The program is not aimed at organising strikes or causing any problems in society,” Ridder said at a forum in Phnom Penh. “The program is made as a positive role for the CLC and expanding the program of workers’ rights, especially for youth and women.”

Educating union representatives on Cambodia’s labour law and offering training in areas such as financial management are among the three-year project’s objectives.

Funds provided by the EU make up 80 per cent of its budget, said Jasna Pajnkihar, an attaché for the EU’s cooperation section. The EU is providing nearly $330,000 of the roughly $360,000 operating cost.

A large part of training will involve negotiating with factory managers, using strikes as a last resort, said CLC secretary general Kong Athit.

“We want to promote negotiation and conciliation peacefully,” Athit said, adding that empowering women and youth in the workforce is another major driving factor. “We can see that the most vulnerable in the labour market are women and young people.”

Issues including firings of union leaders, the ongoing mass faintings and excessive overtime worked in many sectors staffed mostly by youth and women necessitate the program, CLC president Ath Thorn said.

“Decent work has been nonexistent in Cambodia in terms of workers rights,” Thorn said. “Decent work means decent wages, appropriate work hours and the assurance of a safe workplace.”

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