Advocate Tells Teachers to Consider Union

Cambodia’s teachers should form an independent union to help gain better wages and working conditions, some 40 participants were told last weekend at a Phnom Penh conference organized by Education Inter­na­tional.

Alyosius Mathews, Asia Pacific chief coordinator for Education International, a Brazilian based international teachers’ advocacy group, said that teachers here should look to the experience of Malaysia where an educators’ union made the government heed demands for better wages.

A democratic teachers union would give teachers better bargaining power when negotiating with the government, Mathews said.

“You have to mobilize as many [teachers] as possible,” said Mathews adding that just over a decade ago Malaysia’s teachers were paid wages on a level comparable to Cambodia. Now, their salaries are much higher.

Before the workshop wrapped up Sunday, a Cambodian teachers association was established, according to Rong Chhun, professor of Hun Sen High School in Sa’ang district, Kandal province, who was elected association president. Some 40 teachers who at­tended the conference joined the new teachers association, he said.

“More members could be the momentum to prompt the Min­istry of Education and the government to pay more attention to teachers,” Rong Chhun said.

Pok Than, secretary of state at the Ministry of Education, said Sunday that the government does not oppose a teachers union, which is a constitutional right, but such a development would not lead to higher wages. Teachers should cooperate with the government and not agitate against it, he said.

Low salaries prompted teachers to hold a monthlong strike at the beginning of 1999. They are currently paid a monthly salary of approximately $20.


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