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UN’s Smith joins capital Labour Day celebrations

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Rhona Smith (Right) addresses the workers and members of civil society groups at Wat Phnom on Wednesday. Heng Chivoan

UN’s Smith joins capital Labour Day celebrations

UN SPECIAL Rapporteur on human rights in Cambodia Rhona Smith joined more than 1,000 workers and members of civil society groups as they gathered in Phnom Penh with music and dancing to celebrate International Labour Day.

Smith urged the government to continue paying attention to labour rights and workers in the informal economy as they had the right to work safely and securely, as well as enjoy decent living conditions.

Celebrations for the 133rd International Labour Day were held under the theme Labour Conditions in Cambodia at the capital’s Wat Phnom and Freedom Park.

Smith, who joined the celebrations at Wat Phnom, said Cambodia’s development had resulted from the efforts of workers, and they had the right to form unions to protect their labour rights and freedoms.

“Today I take part with Cambodian workers in celebrating International Labour Day. It is an important opportunity to reflect on the right to enjoy decent work and living conditions for all workers in the informal sector.

Content image - Phnom Penh Post
Women celebrate International Labour Day in front of the Council for the Development of Cambodia Phnom Penh on Wednesday. Their Placards call on the government to improve labour rights and worker protection. Heng Chivoan

“I take this opportunity to welcome the amendment to the Law on Trade Unions and open discussions among all relevant parties. I hope this amendment will bring about a law that is in compliance with international standards,” Smith said.

She added that all workers had the right to good safety standards, job security and decent wages and living conditions, as well as to be able to choose overtime or be employed full-time.

Cambodian Centre for Human Rights (CCHR) executive director Chak Sopheap said on Wednesday that Labour Day was very important for workers, staff and those employed in the informal economy.

It gave them the opportunity to voice ideas, express concerns and submit petitions to have their issues resolved.

“I hope the government will consider these petitions because Prime Minister Hun Sen regularly meets workers and these outline their needs as expressed directly by them,” he said.

At Freedom Park, Kong Chamroeun, an official from the prime minister’s cabinet, who came to directly receive the workers’ petitions, said to those gathered that he would review them and then send them to the relevant institutions.

Content image - Phnom Penh Post
A workers holds a placard during a May Day celebration at the capital's Freedom Park on Wednesday. Hong Menea

“I have come here to receive these petitions, and I will send them to the relevant institutions. They will not be ignored – they are being taken so resolutions can be found.”

Prime Minister Hun Sen on Wednesday met nearly 4,000 workers at the Yida factory in Kandal province’s Kien Svay district. He said he would continue efforts to improve the lives of workers, and reminded those present that their salaries increased every year. In 2019, it would rise to $182 a month and be paid every two weeks.

Sochea, 31, a worker at a factory in Phnom Penh’s Por Sen Chey district, said the event gave her an opportunity to air ideas and express concerns.

“At my factory, the owner and company representative always forced us to work overtime, and if we cannot sew enough on time, they forced us to do other things not part of our jobs. For example, we are there to sew, but they make us do other things and we are blamed when they are wrong,” she said.

Independent Democracy of Informal Economy Association (Idea) director Vorn Pov said the fundamental labour rights of workers had recently been limited through the use of short-term employment contracts and restrictions placed on the right to march to submit petitions, hold demonstrations and strike.

Ministry Labour and Vocational Training spokesman Heng Sour said the ministry has received what had been raised in the past, as well as held a forum between the ministry and union leaders in the past 24 days.

Challenges related to working conditions vary widely because the government has cooperated with stakeholders in a wide range of resolutions, he said.

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