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Maids to rally for rights

Maids to rally for rights

4 maid conference Scott Howes

Half a year after the first Cambodian domestic workers network formed, Cambodian activists for maids’ rights are turning to workers in other sectors and international organisations for solidarity and support.

Long lacking organised representation, Cambodian domestic workers this Wednesday will join workers in other industries in rallying in front of the National Assembly on International Labour Day, said Chum Chamm, program officer for the Cambodian Domestic Workers Network.

“We are all working for workers’ rights, so we have to mobilise together,” Chamm said yesterday, the first day of a meeting on maids’ rights in Phnom Penh attended by representatives from a dozen Asian and European countries.

Eight countries have now ratified International Labour Organization Convention 189, which requires days off, a minimum wage and several other rights for maids.

This progress should offer hope and models for successful activism for maids in Cambodia, said Cambodia Labour Confederation representative Neang Sovatha.

In September, pressure from activists prompted the convention’s first ratification by an Asian country, the Philippines – “a great example for Cambodia”, said Marieke Koning of the International Trade Union Confederation.

Koning said she hoped hosting meetings like this week’s in Phnom Penh would put additional pressure on Cambodia to ratify the convention.

According to Chamm, the National Assembly said in December it was happy to ratify ILO 189 but was waiting for a proposal for ratification from the Ministry of Labour, which told Chamm they had requested technical assistance from the ILO in the ratification process.

But Tuon Sophoan of the ILO in Cambodia said the ILO had not yet received a request for assistance from the government.

Senior officials from the Ministry of Labour met in March with activists who had begun lobbying Cambodia to sign ILO 189, he said, but the government would need time to consider the convention’s implementation before ratifying it.

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