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Workers gather at Ministry of Labour

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Workers gather in front of the Ministry of Labour and Vocational Training on Monday to demand improved conditions as had been experienced in the garment sector. Long Kimmarita

Workers gather at Ministry of Labour

More than 100 tourism, service industry and agriculture workers gathered in front of the Ministry of Labour and Vocational Training on Russian Boulevard on Monday to demand improved conditions as had been experienced in the garment sector.

Union representatives joined in the first such demand by workers in the sectors, as those assembled called for an increase in basic salary and improved working conditions.

Representatives of workers in the sectors submitted a petition to the Ministry of Labour requesting a minimum wage of $300 a month and improved working conditions.

The minimum wage in the garment industry is currently $182 a month.

The petition, which was separate from one submitted by union representatives, also called for gratuity payments (for services rendered, such as tips) of 10 per cent.

A Siem Reap hotel employee who attended the gathering and asked not to be named told The Post on Monday that workers in the tourism sector wanted the ministry to clearly outline protected working conditions.

She said there were currently no laws protecting workers in the tourism sector, while pay and other benefits were still minimal.

“Because the law is not clearly stated, business owners can decide whatever they want, including basic salary and working hours.

“We gathered here today to submit a petition on these issues. If the laws state our rights clearly, the owners cannot exploit us,” she said.

Seng Sok Khoeun, an agriculture worker, said conditions in his sector were challenging and often dangerous.

“Working conditions are bad, while the basic salary is so low it is not sufficient for workers and their families to have a decent livelihood. Jobs with companies are also not secure because the owners can sack workers whenever they want. There are no contracts."

“In the agriculture sector, the owners gain huge profits but workers’ wages are very low,” Sok Khoeun said.

Morm Rithy, the president of the Cambodian Tourism and Services Workers Federation(CTSWF), said after submitting a petition to the Ministry of Labour that it was time the ministry considered workers in sectors other than the garment industry.

Every sector contributed to national development, he said.

“I hope the ministry will consider these petitions from workers in these sectors because they should be better-taken care of and have better working conditions."

“I call on the ministry to work on these issues this year. I will continue to monitor the situation. If nothing changes, we will use other strategies to get a minimum wage and working conditions improved,” Rithy said.

Ministry of Labour spokesman Heng Sour told The Post on Monday that the ministry would look at the petitions.

“The ministry accepted the petitions from the workers. They will be sent to a specific team for study, and we will request assistance from relevant partners."

“If possible, we will discuss with development partners about [forming] a labour council committee to review these requests,” Sour said.

He stressed that all workers are protected under the Labour Law and the National Social Security Fund. However, the agriculture and service sectors come under separate chapters of the Labour Law.

“Workers are free to submit requests. Some requests are already covered under laws and regulations. Maybe they are not aware of this. Some requests are new, which demands in-depth study,” he said.

According to union representatives from the sectors concerned, there are around 60,000 workers in the tourism industry, while nearly half the country works in agriculture.

They called for a minimum wage of between $80 to $130 a month for workers in these sectors as the prices of goods had increased significantly.

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