Workers should be taught to read: PM

Garment workers leave a factory yesterday afternoon in Phnom Penh
Garment workers leave a factory yesterday afternoon in Phnom Penh. Prime Minister Hun Sen on Monday called on the private sector to introduce literacy classes for their staff. Pha Lina

Workers should be taught to read: PM

At the kickoff for the National Literacy Campaign at the National Institute of Education in Phnom Penh on Monday, Prime Minister Hun Sen called on private sector employers to introduce literacy classes for their employees.

Reading classes will benefit both illiterate employees and their employers, the premier said in his speech, though some factories contacted yesterday were less than full-throated in their support for the idea.

“I want to take this chance to appeal to the private sector, including the garment industry, to take a look at our workers who do not know how to read and write, and begin literacy classes for them,” Hun Sen said.

“All workers in the public and private sectors should have a chance to learn to read.”

Ministry of Labour spokesman Heng Sour could not be reached yesterday.

Chea Samnang, administrative manager of Phnom Penh garment factory Sky Nice International, yesterday said he had not received any directive from the Labour Ministry requiring reading classes.

“We will consider starting literacy classes for employees if we get an announcement from the ministry,” Samnang said. “I believe that some workers never learned how to read or write, which is difficult for them.”

Meth Veasna, administrative manager at Now Corp, a Kandal province-based garment factory, said the idea for literacy classes may in fact be overly ambitious, considering that a large majority of employees at his factory have never learned to read or write.

Veasna said he will speak with his boss about the suggestion when he returns from an overseas trip, and that the factory will begin classes if they are required. However, such action would likely cut into their productivity.

“Eighty per cent of the workers in our factory cannot read, because most of them are from rural areas; we knew this when they applied for their jobs,” Veasna said yesterday.

“I think it will affect our output if they have to learn, but we have to follow the prime minister [if employers are required to provide classes], because investors have to respect the country’s laws,” he added.

The president of the Cambodian Confederation of Unions, Rong Chhun, yesterday said that he supported literacy classes, but added that he doubts they will actually materialise.

“[Workers] have to work eight hours per day and then they work overtime, so I think they do not have time to attend literacy class,” Chhun said.

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