Prime Minister Hun Sen on Wednesday asked the Ministry of Labour and Vocational Training to consider the request of six union groups who have petitioned the government to set a minimum wage for workers in the construction and service sectors.
Speaking during a meeting with around 20,000 workers from 23 enterprises in Kampong Speu province, Hun Sen said he had asked the ministry to pay attention to the petition which the union groups submitted to the government on Human Rights Day on Monday.
The prime minister said the Royal Government should act to take responsibility for workers in sectors other than the garment industry.
He said the government is examining which sectors it should set a minimum wage for. So far the government has only set a minimum wage for the garment and footwear sectors.
“I would like to give advice regarding domestic workers. Although a minimum wage for them has not been set, I would like all house owners to kindly understand their difficulties."
“This story I know very clearly because I also have domestic workers in my house. Domestic workers have no Saturdays, Sundays or public holidays. It is very difficult for them,” Hun Sen said.
The president of the Cambodia Informal Economy Reinforced Association, Din Puthy, said he supports the proposal to set a minimum wage for hotel and casino staff and workers in the service and construction industries.
He said that currently their salary depends on the goodwill of their employers, meaning that many are not earning enough to support decent living conditions.
He added that if the government sets a minimum wage for the construction and service sectors, living conditions would improve. It would also reduce emigration to other countries that pay higher salaries.
“For workers and staff in the construction and service sectors, [their wage] at present depends on their boss. We get whatever amount they choose to give us."
“I would like to request officials to follow the recommendation of Samdech [Hun Sen] because [he] has also paid attention to workers in the informal economy,” Puthy said.
Yim Sothy, the president of the Association of Domestic Workers (ADW), said she was happy that the government has begun to pay attention to domestic workers.
She said domestic workers go through a lot of difficulties and that some employers physically or sexually abuse them as they are a vulnerable target.
They get a small wage and cannot support their families until is an adequate minimum wage is set, she said.
“Domestic workers do not go through associations. They are from provinces or rural areas. They face many challenges as there is sexual abuse and wages are set according to house owners’ sentiments."
“If the house owner is kind, they are lucky but if the house owner is bad or fierce, they suffer and there is no legal officer to help protect them,” Sothy said.
The petition submitted on Monday sought the resolution of several issues. The union groups, the petition said, “request the Royal Government to set a minimum wage for the construction and service sectors”.
They “request intervention to make employers reinstate union leaders and union activists who have been illegally dismissed and provide them back pay”.
The six groups also “request a review of some articles of the Trade Union Law, request a review of Prakas 303 dated July 2 2018 on the ‘most representative status’ of unions, request a ratification of ILO convention 149 on the protection of migrant domestic workers and request enforcement of the Labour Law for domestic and service workers”.
According to Yim Sothy, there are currently more than 250,000 domestic workers but only 600 have joined the ADW. Most of them receive between $100 and $200 per month and work on Saturdays, Sundays and public holidays.