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PM calls for halt to ‘illegal’ protests

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Garment workers striking at the W&D Factory this week. Prime Minister Hun Sen has called for labour unions to stop encouraging protests calling for ‘illegal’ demands from employers. pha lina

PM calls for halt to ‘illegal’ protests

Prime Minister Hun Sen on Wednesday called on labour unions to immediately stop organising demonstrations and strikes to “illegally” demand benefits from factory owners.

He said such actions could spin out of hand and force around two-thirds of the Kingdom’s factories, approximately 800 of the country’s 1,159 factories, to close down due to insufficient funds.

Hun Sen’s call came during a meeting attended by nearly 20,000 workers in Takeo province on Wednesday, in which he said unions were provoking workers to demand seniority indemnity be paid in a lump sum. An amendment is due to take effect this year stipulating indemnity payments are made every six months.

The prime minister said: “To deal with the issue, we have amended our Labour Law, which in the past [saw indemnity payments] kept for a long time before being provided ... [I] did not expect that there would be six factories – three in Phnom Penh, two in Takeo province and one in Kampong Speu province – [where workers] demanded the factories pay them in one lump sum . . . there are some groups coming to provoke a situation and demand a lump sum payment.

“I would like to call for unions who led the strikes and demonstrations with regard to this issue to immediately stop this activity, which could lead to an extreme situation.”

Hun Sen also questioned workers whether they would like to see factories shut down.

“If factories close down, the one who suffers the consequences is not the factory owner. The ones who first see consequences are the workers who used to have jobs and earn an income,” he said.

The prime minister said that in the past there were owners who closed down their factories, leaving the government to allocate $22 million to pay worker’s benefits.

Collective Union of Movement of Workers president Pav Sina said 1,200 W&D garment workers were recently

dismissed after they demanded the factory’s owner pay them their seniority indemnity before 2019, before the implementation of the new law.

Ministry of Labour and Vocational Training spokesman Heng Sour explained that garment and footwear sector employers had to pay seniority indemnity in instalments prior to this year. Now they have to pay 30 days basic wage annually – 15 days of which is paid in June and 15 in December.

Workers on short-term contracts will receive seniority indemnity at the expiration of their contract, Sour said.

“Implementation is not the same as those who are on a long-term employment contracts. Workers in the garment and footwear sector, please be careful and avoid being cheated and incited illegally by some crafty individuals.” he added.

Coalition of Cambodian Apparel Workers Democratic Union president Ath Thorn told The Post on Wednesday that the union had been raising the issue for a long time. He dismissed allegations that his union supported and incited workers to demand seniority indemnity.

“We were not involved with pushing the workers to demand this, because our members did not demand it. We see that this demand resulted from workers themselves,” he said.