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Thousands to protest wages

Thousands to protest wages

EIGHTY-SIX thousand garment workers will stage a three-day strike this month to demand a 40 percent increase in the minimum wage, union officials said Monday.

Chea Mony, president of the Free Trade Union of Workers of the Kingdom of Cambodia (FTUWKC), said officials from the government and the garment industry, including the Garment Manufacturers Association in Cambodia (GMAC), had failed to respond after union members voted on May 23 to strike in the absence of an answer on the wage issue by the end of the month.

“We are discussing the plans for the strike carefully,” Chea Mony said. “It will not be a march – all factory workers will stop working for three days and sit in front of their factories.”

Cambodian Confederation of Unions president Rong Chhun said Monday that no date for the strike had been set, but that the union was hoping to stage it as soon as possible.

In 2006, when an agreement was reached to set the minimum wage for garment workers at its current level of US$50 per month, the government and industry representatives agreed that wages would be discussed again in 2010.

The FTUWKC, which Chea Mony said comprises 86,000 garment workers in 193 factories, is demanding an increase to $70 per month.

GMAC secretary general Ken Loo said Monday that his organisation is committed to holding discussions on wages by the end of this year.
The planned strike, he added, is unreasonable and impractical.

“It is not possible to respond to an issue as important as the minimum wage within, what, a week? It’s just impossible,” Loo said.

“We acknowledge that it’s time for negotiations with regard to the minimum wage, and we have until the end of the year, which is a good seven months, so there is ample time.”

In a letter dated Wednesday, Loo wrote to Minister of Labour Vong Soth to ask that the government intervene against the “threats” from the FTUWKC.

“The number of illegal strikes that have already occurred in Cambodia have already given Cambodia a bad reputation and have frightened off many potential investors and buyers,” Loo wrote.

Officials from the Ministry of Labour could not be reached for comment Monday.

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