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Maids call for legal protection

IDEA president Vorn Pov
IDEA president Vorn Pov speaks in front of the Ministry of Labour in Phnom Penh yesterday during a rally by domestic workers calling for more labour rights. SEN DAVID

Maids call for legal protection

A group of about 20 domestic workers gathered in front of the Ministry of Labour in Phnom Penh early yesterday morning to mark International Domestic Workers Day and deliver a petition urging the government to afford them the same rights as factory labourers.

The petition, which was received by the ministry shortly before 9am, calls on the government to ratify the International Labour Organization’s Convention No 189, which entitles domestic workers to benefits including a day off every week.

“The Ministry of Labour agrees to examine their petition [but] we cannot find a solution in a hurry. We need time, but the ministry … is working on this,” ministry official Kroch Sophary said.

While the government looks to open a pipeline of maids to Malaysia, Singapore and Saudi Arabia – all of which have made headlines for cases of abuse against domestic workers – those gathered yesterday said they have few rights inside Cambodia.

Thirty-two-year-old Tot Nareth said she has to work 14 hours a day, seven days a week, for just $65 per month.

“When I ask to have a rest a day to visit my home or go to hospital, they cut my wage in half,” she said.

Chhay Somony said she was asking only for the same rights as factory workers.

“We do not have any law to protect us like factory workers do . . . to determine our wage, health care [or] working hours. We work in labour too so we should have the same rights.”

According to the Cambodian Domestic Workers Network, which organised yesterday’s event, there are some 240,000 maids in Cambodia.

Huy Pich Sovann, a program officer with the Community Legal Education Center, said Cambodia’s domestic workers are often “treated like slaves”.

“They are humans so they should be given the same rights as other humans,” he said.

Vorn Pov, president of the Independent Democracy of Informal Economy Association, said he hoped to create a network of domestic workers to pressure on the government to include them under the Labour Law.

“They work without getting care from the government. We need the Minister of Labour to ratify [Convention] 189 of ILO,” he said.

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