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PM: Settle labour payment disputes

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Garment workers walk near their factory in Chaom Chao commune’s Prey Tea village of the capital’s Por Sen Chey district last year. Heng Chivoan

PM: Settle labour payment disputes

Prime Minister Hun Sen has instructed the Ministry of Labour and Vocational Training to solve issues faced by workers regarding payment of the money owed to them when their factories and manufacturing enterprises close, while also urging protesters to exercise restraint and to only demonstrate in a lawful manner.

Speaking at a graduation ceremony for over 600 students of the University of Puthisastra on August 17, Hun Sen said he had followed reports regarding worker issues when their factories shut down or were suspended and they would seek solutions from different institutions, though some had finally ended up petitioning him at his home.

“I’ve instructed the labour ministry to solve all of the concerns of workers who face these problems,” he said, adding that the issue should not be left for the prime minister to solve, as the ministry was established to handle these tasks.

He singled out a case on August 16 when representatives of protesting workers came to file their grievance at his Cabinet after their petitions to relevant institutions three months back produced no results.

“The labour ministry and my Cabinet: What was your solution for them after you received their petition? Who received the petition and who was it referred to?” he asked, adding that if factories close down and move to another place, payments must still be made to their workers in accordance with the labour law.

“Ith Samheng, I just don’t see these issues as being too difficult to solve. Solve these problems! In the past, I have allowed you to borrow state money to solve problems for workers, so why are you not solving these problems now?” he said in reference to the labour minister who was not present at the ceremony.

The premier elaborated that factory assets could be seized and sold off to repay any loans required from the government to pay workers the wages and severance owed to them.

He also called on workers to avoid unreasonable protests and only hold public demonstrations in a lawful and orderly manner for the sake of protecting foreign business investments in the Kingdom.

“Investors don’t care much about democracy and they also hate anarchic protests. That doesn’t mean that the right to protest is restricted, but investors want their production chains to keep moving like usual.

“Speaking frankly like this doesn’t mean we care less about the rights of the workers or the demands of their unions, who we support in seeking reasonable solutions when they have cause to do so,” he said.

Reached for comment following Hun Sen’s admonitions, labour ministry spokesman Heng Sour told The Post briefly that officials were preparing to implement the premier’s recommendations in full.

Mai Chan, a worker at a factory in Kandal province, applauded Hun Sen’s statements, saying he was happy to hear that the state budget could be used to provide compensation to workers should any factory close down, with the state then dealing with the company in question directly.

He said that previously workers did not know who to turn to for help when conflicts with employers arose.

“I am so happy that the government cares about us. We feel good now that the government will release a budget package to solve these problems for us. When our workplaces shut down, it affects our lives as we all need to pay back loans and we need the money for our daily food,” he said.

Pav Sina, president of the Collective Union of Movement of Workers, also supported Hun Sen’s remarks, saying that there were cases in which factories closed and workers were left unpaid for both their wages and other compensation and allowances as stated in the law.

He urged that this principle outlined by the prime minister be announced officially and put into use as a national policy.

“I request that our leaders set a national policy so that all factories and manafacturing enterprise must be subject to it when the owners skip town or their factories are closed. We urge the government to use state funds to immediately resolve these financial impacts for workers and then recoup them from the owners.

“This will avoid having workers feel the need to go out to protest in the heat and the rain and risk confrontations with the authorities at demonstrations,” he said.

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