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Union head to appeal to PM

Ath Thorn, head of the Cambodian Labour Confederation, speaks to
garment factory workers during a strike demanding an increase in the
minimum wage in September. Photo by: Heng Chivoan
Cambodian Labour Confederation president Ath Thorn has announced plans
to appeal to Prime Minister Hun Sen in a bid to allow more than 300
workers dismissed or suspended in connection with September strikes in
the garment sector to return to their jobs.

Last month, Ath
Thorn sent a letter to the Ministry of Labour on behalf of 379 garment
workers from 18 factories who he said were dismissed or suspended
following court complaints filed by factories after the strikes. The
workers were protesting against a US$5 rise in the industry-wide
minimum wage that brought the monthly minimum to $61, a total they said
was inadequate.

“I did not get any reply from the Labour
Ministry regarding our request for intervention, and we think the
ministry must not be working at all because they have not even
acknowledged our letter,” Ath Thorn said.
“We will write a letter
and send it to the Prime Minister this week on behalf of the workers
who were fired because we have no hope of getting a result from the
Ministry of Labour.”

Ken Loo, secretary general of the Garment
Manufacturers Association in Cambodia, said he believed Ath Thorn’s
figures on dismissals and suspensions were inflated, though he said he
did not have figures of his own available. “The suspended have all but
been reinstated, and we are really only talking about a few that have
outstanding court cases,” Loo said. “The factories are just proceeding,
going through the legal process.”

Oum Mean, a secretary of state
at the Ministry of Labour, said yesterday that he had not addressed the
issue because of an extended leave of absence from his job due to
health problems. Labour Ministry Director General Seng Sakada could not
be reached for comment.

In a speech in September, Hun Sen called
on factories to drop complaints filed against workers and union
representatives in connection with the strikes and to allow suspended
or dismissed workers to return to their jobs.

International
clothing brands including Levi’s, Gap and Adidas issued a joint
statement at the time expressing “great concern” and calling for a
negotiated solution to the unrest.

“We want the government to
find out the reason why the factories have not respected the orders of
the Prime Minister, the courts and the Council of Ministers,” Ath Thorn
said. Union leaders, he added, had collected over $12,000 to support
the dismissed workers.

In October, GMAC said factories would
drop all complaints related to the strikes in exchange for apologies
from workers and unions. Union representatives rejected this offer,
claiming the strikes were legal and that they had nothing to apologise
for.

ADDITIONAL REPORTING BY JAMES O’TOOLE

Phnom Penh Post
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Categories: Local News
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