A new collective of transportation workers unions was announced on Sunday by the Cambodia Labour Confederation, Cambodia’s largest association of independent unions.
The Cambodian Transport Workers Federation (CTWF) is composed of seven transportation workers unions and currently represents about 2,000 workers, according to Ath Thorn, president of the CLC.
The seven unions represent airport workers in Phnom Penh, Siem Reap and Sihanoukville, along with other transportation companies, most of which are bus firms such as Sorya and Capitol Tours.
horn said the creation of the federation was part of a push to unionise workers outside the garment sector, particularly in the construction, transportation and agricultural areas.
“We want transportation workers to become unionists so they can make better working conditions” he said.
“This sector has no respect for the Labour Law.”
Thorn said that transport unions could be more powerful if united, suggesting that a minimum wage, which is under discussion, be established for the sector.
Regulations concerning working hours and wages are rarely enforced for transportation workers such as drivers and attendants, said Moeun Tola, head of the labour program at the Community Legal Education Center.
Tola added that while garment workers could use their unions to capture the attention of consumer groups in the West, where most of Cambodia’s garments are exported to, transportation workers did not have that option.
“Consumer groups have more leverage to push for the recognition of trade unions, and also to implement the Labour Law” he said.
But increasing unionisation in the transport sector is no simple feat.
Workers for Sorya and Capitol Tours have gone on strike over the past year after employers fired drivers for attempting to start labour unions.
Van Rorng, a former bus driver for the Capitol Tours company who was fired after he and seven others started a union last month, said that although he was not aware of the new federation, he welcomed it as a way of uniting with other transportation workers.
“I don’t know about the new union federation and am not involved in it, but it’s good to have it so it can help transportation workers like me,” he said.
Rorng said he and seven other drivers fired by Capitol were waiting for a decision from the court on their case.
“I will consider looking to the new federation to help us if the court does not give justice to us,” he said.
Labour Ministry spokesman Heng Sour could not be reached for comment yesterday.