Deal Gives Factory Workers Time to Register

A deal to allow factory workers time off to register for the upcoming commune elections was struck Monday at the Ministry of Labor between government, factory and union officials.

The agreement grants workers at garment and shoe factories half a day to four days off to travel to their home commune during the July 21 to Aug 16 registration period, said Um Mean, director general of the Ministry of Labor and Social Affairs.

Workers will be paid during their absence as long as they have not used all of their holiday time. They also will retain their $5 monthly bonus for perfect attendance if they prove that they used the time off to register and did not merely go on holiday, said Van Sou Ieng, president of the Cam­bo­dian Federation of Employers and Business Associations. Returning workers will be asked to show factory officials their voter registration cards.

The agreement addresses one of the largest concerns of opposition lawmakers, who claim many supporters among the nation’s 200,000 factory workers.

It was alleged by Sam Rainsy Party members that factory workers were not allowed to take time off to participate in the 1998 elections, dampening support for the opposition party.

Opposition Senator Ou Bun­long said he will wait to see what happens during the registration period. “I will wait until the 21st, and on the first day or maybe the second day I will know” if it is fair, he said.

The Sam Rainsy Party plans to enlist party members to monitor the registration. The massive un­dertaking will require 1,165 people for Phnom Penh’s 937 registration sites alone, and an additional 20,000 for registration sites nationwide.

The agreement covers only the registration period, and not the Feb 3 vote, which is on a Sunday, a nonworking day for workers.

Under the agreement, workers in Mondolkiri, Ratanakkiri, Koh Kong and Preah Vihear each get up to four days to travel to their home commune to register. Wor­kers in Phnom Penh get from a half day to a full day; and workers in Kandal, Kompong Speu and Kompong Chhnang get get two days. Workers from Bat­tambang, Banteay Meanchey, Siem Reap, Kompong Thom, Kompong Cham, Kratie, Kam­pot, Siha­noukville and Takeo get three days.

The days will be deducted from the workers’ allotment of seven paid holiday days a year, which are used for special events, such as weddings and funerals. The holidays are in addition to 11 days of paid vacation every year, as man­dated by law, said Van Sou Ieng.

Chea Vichea, president of the Free Trade Union of the Workers of the Kingdom of Cambodia, said he was satisfied with the agreement, and he thanked the government, employers and the National Election Committee for allowing workers to vote.

The meeting was attended by representatives from five unions, Camfeba and NEC officials.


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