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Officials reconsider workers’ benefits in construction sector

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Workers worked at a construction site in Phnom Penh's Chamkarmon district on January 25, 2021. Hong Menea

Officials reconsider workers’ benefits in construction sector

Government officials in conjunction with labour representatives are addressing challenges facing workers in the nation’s construction sector to upgrade working conditions, especially workplace safety and compensation benefits.

Representatives from the Ministry of Labour and Vocational Training and Ministry of Land Management, Urban Planning and Construction met members of the International Labour Organisation (ILO) and local labour unions on January 22 to discuss measures for improving social protections for construction workers.

Sok Kin, president of the Building and Wood Workers Trade Union Federation of Cambodia (BWTUC), said delegates discussed establishing fixed wages for construction workers and plans to include them under the National Social Security Fund (NSSF).

Kin added that participants also discussed health and safety-related challenges faced by construction workers in order for stakeholders, and the government in particular, to find solutions together.

“We know that the challenges of the construction sector are many, but more importantly, we should find ways to ensure that construction workers no longer have accidents in the workplace. The concerned parties are committed to finding ways for employers to comply with existing legal standards,” Kin said.

ILO’s National Coordinator Tun Sophorn expressed support for the government’s efforts to look after the best interests of the country’s construction workers with legal protections.

“We want to expand social protection and working insurance under the NSSF to those working in the construction sector. This is the work we have been doing with the government. In particular, we are preparing a health and safety policy for Cambodia with support from the labour ministry, but this policy has not yet been approved,” he said.

Sophorn expected proactive participation from the government to address with urgency the risks faced by construction workers.

Labour ministry spokesman Heng Sour told The Post that the government was making progress to improve occupational health and safety standards in the construction sector.

He pointed out that permanent construction workers are already entitled to receive many benefits set by law, including NSSF insurance. Subcontracted construction workers or temporary workers receiving daily allowances were not covered, but the ministry is pursuing additional studies of these issues.

Meas Vichhekar, a construction worker in Phnom Penh, expressed satisfaction that stakeholders were taking up issues pertaining to his profession. Enacting the discussed provisions would improve their health and living standards.

“I am happy they are thinking of us. I expect that we will also be accorded the same benefits such as through the NSSF. It would be great to receive safety insurance,” he said.

The land management ministry estimates that there are currently more than 360,000 construction workers across the country. According to BWTUC’s Kin, many of them still do not enjoy decent working conditions and some have also been subjected to exploitation by their employers.

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