Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Workers quietly trickle back

Workers quietly trickle back

Garment workers gather behind barbed wire during a strike on Monday in Phnom Penh
Garment workers gather behind barbed wire during a strike on Monday in Phnom Penh. Vireak Mai

Workers quietly trickle back

As garment union groups resume their strike today, thousands of workers plan on returning to work, largely citing financial necessity rather than ideological disagreement with the unions.

The Ministry of Labour on Monday ordered union leaders to cease a nationwide strike that began nine days ago, after the ministry’s Labour Advisory Committee set this year’s minimum monthly wage for workers in the garment sector at $95 – $65 less than unions demanded. The ministry this week tacked another $5 onto the minimum wage, which will now rise to $100 next month.

“If we do not return to work, the factory will not pay us,” said Noun Bunthoeun, a worker representative at Chu Hsing Garments (Cambodia) Co Ltd in Phnom Penh, who added that more than 7,000 workers – about 80 per cent – at the Russey Keo district factory’s three branches will return today. “This does not mean we are abandoning our demand for [a minimum wage of] $160.”

Lacking financial resources is the primary motive for workers at 30 factories in Svay Rieng province, who will come back to work today, said Sok Na, a representative for the Collective Union of Movement of Workers (CUMW) at the Best Way garment factory in Bavet town.

Na yesterday pointed out that after overtime pay, transportation bonuses and other benefits, workers at his factory typically take home more than $160 each month.

“We do not want to lose our work,” Na said in an interview yesterday. “If the workers in Phnom Penh get the Labour Ministry to increase the minimum wage, we will get the same here.”

Coalition of Cambodian Apparel Workers’ Democratic Union (C.CAWDU) vice president Kong Athit yesterday said he is not worried about too many strikers returning to work, because enough people are willing to remain on strike to make a serious impact. It stands to reason that workers in an industry where employees live paycheque to paycheque cannot bear the financial burden of a prolonged strike, he added.

“These are working poor people,” Athit said. “Nobody forced them to go on strike.… We will support any decision that is taken by the workers.”

Labour Ministry spokesman Heng Sour yesterday said ministry officials will closely watch union leaders who continue striking despite an order to stop.

“The Labour Ministry and authorities will keep an eye on union leaders who are leading the strike, and their activities,” Sour said.

The six unions on strike – C.CAWDU, CUMW, the Free Trade Union, the Coalition of Cambodian Unions, the Cambodian Alliance of Trade Unions and the Worker Friendship Union Federation – will hold a press conference this morning to respond to public statements made by the Labour Ministry and the Garment Manufacturers Association in Cambodia, said Athit.

ADDITIONAL REPORTING BY SEAN TEEHAN

MOST VIEWED

  • Siem Reap drain canal now ‘mangrove’ promenade

    A more than half a kilometre long stretch of canal in Siem Reap has been covered and turned into a promenade to attract visitors, said Ly Rasmey, secretary of state at the Ministry of Land Management, Urban Planning and Construction, on September 16. The new pedestrianised

  • Angkor wildlife, aquarium park still to open October

    The Angkor Wildlife and Aquarium complex about 30km southeast of Siem Reap town with initial total investment of more than $70 million is reportedly still on track for an end-October opening. The park is located on a 100ha plot along National Road 6 in Kbon village, Khchas

  • Final verdicts for Khmer Rouge leaders ‘vital’ for next generation

    Nearly a decade after the commencement of Case 002/02 against Khieu Samphan back in 2014, the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia (ECCC) is now set to deliver its final verdict for the former Khmer Rouge head of state. The Supreme Court Chamber of the ECCC,

  • Typhoon Noru brings flash floods – 16 dead

    An official warned that that the 16th typhoon of the season, Noru, had brought heavy rains to areas the Mekong River and flooded thousands of homes in the provinces bordering Thailand. As of September 27, the death toll from the flooding had risen to 16. National Committee

  • Defence minister reaffirms Kingdom’s staunch support for One-China policy

    Minister of National Defence General Tea Banh has reaffirmed Cambodia’s unwavering support for the One-China policy. Tea Banh was speaking at the September 20 ceremonial handover of 117 vehicles and other military equipment donated by China’s defence ministry, held at Phnom Chumreay International Military Training

  • Deaths due to ‘lifestyle’ diseases rise in Kingdom

    The Ministry of Health has called on people to pay closer attention to their health to protect themselves from non-communicable diseases (NCDs) which it said have caused high rates of deaths in the country. Ministry secretary of state York Sambath made the call at a