Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Unions unite to demand big reforms



Unions unite to demand big reforms

Unions unite to demand big reforms

A group of nine garment industry unions and coalitions released a letter yesterday making 13 demands for sweeping reforms in the sector, saying they would take to the streets in protests if their calls for improved working conditions and labour relations were not heeded.

The statement expressed “deep regret” that the government set next year’s minimum wage at $140 earlier this month instead of the $160 unions had been pushing for, and asked the government, employers and buyers to address a wide range of longstanding grievances.

The demands include a ban on using short-term contracts; the dismissal of court cases against union leaders, which are widely seen as politically motivated; establishing a national minimum wage for other sectors of the economy; setting price controls on food, petrol and daily items for garment workers; a $15 monthly transport allowance; a $1 daily lunch allowance; bolstering social services; and resolving other worker grievances.

“Our demands are not coming from nowhere because we have been demanding them from employers since 2013, but in the last few years we’ve had a strong focus on the minimum wage, [so] we did not focus on other benefits,” said Pav Sina, president of the Collective Union of Movement of Workers.

Sina said the letter would be sent to the Ministry of Labour today, and sent again twice over the next two weeks.

“If we still don’t get any responses, we will call all union leaders to set a date for demonstrations across the country,” he said.

Employers, however, do not appear ready to make any accommodations.

Ken Loo, secretary-general of the Garment Manufacturers Association in Cambodia, dismissed the letter as a “threat”, saying that employers would not consider implementing any of its points.

“Unfortunately, this is the way that the unions choose to work,” he said.

If protests took place, they would have to comply with the law, Loo added.

“In the event that [protests] do not comply with procedures, that should be deemed illegal and we hope the relevant authorities will take action against such illegal demonstrations.”

William Conklin, country director of the US-based Solidarity Center, said the unions’ demands needed to be addressed, although getting them all implemented at once may prove “difficult”.

Labour Ministry spokesman Heng Sour did not respond to a request for comment.

MOST VIEWED

  • Without shoes or a helmet, a young cyclist steals the show

    Pech Theara gripped the curved handlebars of his rusty old bike, planted his bare feet on its pedals and stormed as fast as he could towards the finish line. The odds were against him as the 13-year-old faced off against kids with nicer bikes at

  • Phnom Penh-Sihanoukville expressway on schedule

    The construction of the more than $1.9 billion Phnom Penh-Sihanoukville Expressway has not been delayed despite the Covid-19 pandemic, with more than 26 per cent of the project completed and expected to finish in about two years, according to Ministry of Public Works and Transport secretary of

  • Singapore group seeks $14M in damages from PPSP over ‘breach of contract’

    Singapore-based Asiatic Group (Holdings) Ltd is seeking a minimum of $14.4 million relief from Cambodia Securities Exchange (CSX)-listed Phnom Penh Special Economic Zone Plc (PPSP) for allegedly breaching a power plant joint venture (JV) agreement. Asiatic Group’s wholly-owned Colben System Pte Ltd and 95 per

  • Over 110 garment factories close

    A government official said on November 22 that at least 110 garment factories had closed in the first nine months of the year and left more than 55,000 workers without jobs – but union leaders worry those numbers could be much higher. Ministry of Labour and Vocational Training undersecretary

  • PM dispels lockdown rumours, gifts masks

    Prime Minister Hun Sen on November 12 denied rumours that he will lock down the country in response to increased Covid-19 fears, referring to them as propaganda aimed at destabilising the country. In a Facebook post, he said some people had spread rumours that the government

  • SilkAir adds flight to Phnom Penh schedule

    Silkair (Singapore) Pte Ltd is increasing its flight frequency between Phnom Penh and Singapore with a third weekly flight on Saturdays, according to Cambodia Airports’ Facebook page. The other flights offered are on Tuesdays and Sundays, with an estimated Phnom Penh arrival time at 5:35pm