Hundreds of thousands of workers in the garment and footwear industries may already have been in line for an increase in bonuses before the Free Trade Union threatened a nationwide strike on Friday, according to a letter from Labour Minister Vong Sauth obtained by the Post yesterday.
The June 20 letter, issued to employers and workers, announced that the ministry’s Labour Advisory Council will meet on July 11 to discuss employee benefits, including travel and accommodation bonuses, but did not mention figures. It also called on workers to avoid resorting to strikes if they had a grievance.
“The Ministry of Labour and Vocational Training hopes workers and employers ... will follow the above information,” the letter states, adding that decisions would be made based on recommendations from Prime Minister Hun Sen.
FTU president Chea Mony, unaware of the letter, sent his own correspondence to Minister of Interior Sar Keng on Friday threatening a nationwide strike in August if the government didn’t agree to grant workers in the two industries monthly attendance, travel and accommodation bonuses of US$10.
Mony welcomed the meeting, but said he hadn’t been made aware of it because the LAC, the Garment Manufacturers Association in Cambodia and the Ministry of Labour did not recognise his union.
“We want the government to issue a letter confirming clearly that $10 will be offered to each worker per month for travelling expenses and house rental,” Mony said. “We want to have official enforcement throughout the country.”
He will attend next month’s meeting if the Ministry of Labour invites him, he said.
Dave Welsh, country director of the American Center for International Labor Solidarity, said the workers’ demands for $10 bonuses were realistic “as long as all stakeholders, namely the brands, are engaged in raising real wages, in the sense that there is enormous room to get workers up to a living wage through a combination of allowances [and] food programs”.
Threatening nationwide strikes if the government did not respond to every demand, however, did no credit to the trade union movement, Welsh said.
Sauth, who is also LAC president, could not be reached for comment yesterday.