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Strikers face legal obstacles

Strikers face legal obstacles

CAMBODIAN Labour Confederation President Ath Thun said yesterday that more than 50,000 garment workers had thumbprinted statements in favour of a strike to protest against the industry’s new minimum wage. A government official, meanwhile, said unauthorised strikes would be met with legal action.

A decision last month by the Labour Advisory Committee, a body of government officials and industry representatives, set the minimum wage for garment workers at US$61 per month. This ruling increased the previous minimum wage, established in 2006, by $5.

“If they do not give us the chance to hold new negotiations, we will still hold the strike,” Ath Thun said. “It is not my decision – it is the decision of the workers, so I will follow them.”

Anthony Pa, a member of the Council of Jurists at the Council of Ministers, warned that the government would consider bringing lawsuits and criminal charges against any who engage in unlawful demonstrations.

“If it happens seriously, more and more, we’d consider that,” Anthony Pa said yesterday, and warned that “whoever commits illegal strikes or illegal demonstrations” could face prosecution. The Kingdom’s 1997 Labour Law states that union leaders must give notice of strikes seven days in advance.

Ath Thun said workers would meet next Sunday to decide definitively whether to hold the strike, tentatively planned for August 25.

Last week, Sam Rainsy Party lawmaker Son Chhay wrote to Prime Minister Hun Sen to request that the government reconsider last month’s minimum-wage decision.

Son Chhay called for a minimum wage of at least $85, and said the government “has an obligation to attend to this matter immediately”.

Oum Mean, a secretary of state at the Ministry of Labour, said yesterday that ministry officials had not yet received the letter. Whether Labour Minister Vong Soth would appear before the National Assembly “is the decision of the minister and the government”, Oum Mean said.

ADDITIONAL REPORTING BY JAMES O’TOOLE

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