MINISTER of Labour Vong Soth is set to appear before the National Assembly on Thursday to answer questions about last month’s strikes by garment workers and lingering discord in the industry.
“We are happy to appear and answer the questions that the National Assembly members have about what we’re doing,” said Oum Mean, a secretary of state at the Ministry of Labour.
Oum Mean said staffers from the Ministry of Social Affairs were holding meetings this week with officials in Kandal province, Kampong Speu province and Phnom Penh to find resolutions at factories where garment workers had been suspended or dismissed.
Sam Rainsy Party lawmaker Son Chhay said he had submitted a list of questions to the Labour Ministry last week inquiring about reports that factories had prevented unions from organising on their premises and asking what the government was doing to resolve disagreements between unionists and their employers.
“I want him to answer all the questions that I’ve already sent to him, and if his answers do not fit with my questions, then I will ask him again,” Son Chhay said.
Ken Loo, the secretary general of the Garment Manufacturers Association in Cambodia, said government officials were working “to try to arrive at a compromise in order to allow the workers back to work as per the prime minister’s recommendation”.
In a speech last month, Prime Minister Hun Sen called for factories to drop complaints against workers related to the strikes.
A report from the Coalition of Cambodian Apparel Workers Democratic Union released on Friday said there were 94 union representatives who remained suspended in connection with last month’s strikes, organised to protest the minimum wage for garment workers. A total of 683 workers have been dismissed after protesting the suspensions of these representatives and subsequently failing to heed court orders requiring them to return to work, CCAWDU said.
But Loo said just 358 workers had been dismissed, with 67 union representatives suspended.
He said employers would drop their complaints in exchange for apologies from the workers involved in the strikes, an offer CCAWDU has rejected.
“There must be an apology, firstly... there must be an acknowledgement of wrongdoing, and there must an agreement not to repeat those same mistakes again,” Loo said.
CCAWDU Vice President Kong Athit said last week, however, that there was no need for union leaders to apologise for anything.
“We cannot do that because we are not wrong and the government did not accuse us of being wrong,” Kong Athit said.
ADDITIONAL REPORTING BY JAMES O’TOOLE