FTU Threatens Work Stoppage in Mid-July Over Minimum Wage

Free Trade Union President Chea Mony has sent a letter in­for­ming the Ministry of Interior of the union’s plan to hold a work stop­page in mid-July if the minimum wage for garment workers is not increased.

“I delivered the letter to His Excellency Sar Kheng, the Mini­ster of Interior, on Tuesday to in­form him about the three day work stoppages,” Mr Mony said yesterday. “We will do this in all factories nationwide on July 13, 14 and 15 by just sitting and not working.”

The FTU, which claims to represent approximately 80,000 garment factory workers, voted on May 23 to strike if a joint policymaking body on labor, the Labor Advisory Committee, failed to approve a 20 percent increase over the current minimum wage for garment factory workers by the end of May.

Mr Mony said yesterday that in order to avoid the July 13 to 15 work stoppage, the Labor Ad­visory Committee, comprising re­presentatives from the Labor Ministry, the Garment Manu­fac­tur­ers Association in Cam­bodia, and a CPP-affiliated labor union, must raise the minimum wage from $50 to $70.

FTU members will go to work from July 13 to 15 but they won’t do any work, Mr Mony said.

According to Mr Mony, the LAC in 2006 and 2008 said that the minimum wage would be in­creased by the end of this year.

Lieutenant General Khieu So­­pheak, spokesman for the In­teri­or Ministry, confirmed the mini­stry had received the letter.

“Please go see the Demon­stra­tion Law,” Mr Sopheak ad­ded, de­clining to comment further.

Article 3 of the demonstration law, which was passed last year, pro­hibits strikes on factory grounds.

Minister of Labor Vong Sauth, who chairs the LAC, said he was too busy to comment. He re­ferred questions to Secretary of State Oum Mean, who could not be reached.

A notice from the Labor Mi­ni­stry published earlier this month in the Khmer-language press warned against any strike over the issue of the minimum wage.

“The Labor Advisory Com­mittee has already made pro­gress in meetings over the minimum wage for the garment factory sector,” according to the statement.

Ken Loo, secretary-general for the Garment Manufacturers Asso­ci­ation in Cambodia, said the unions need to wait for the LAC to meet before holding the work stop­­page.

“It’s not in the spirit of a normal dispute resolution process to strike before negotiations. On the other hand, that’s what unions have been doing all along,” Mr Loo said, adding that GMAC ex­pects an agreement on the minimum wage this year.

“There needs to be an agreement within the year 2010 on this issue,” he said.

Chhuon Mom Thol, president of the CPP-aligned Cambodian Union Federation and vice chairman of LAC, called the FTU strike call premature as a meeting of the LAC on the issue could be scheduled soon.

“I have informed my members not to participate in Chea Mony’s strike because it is not time to strike yet,” he added.

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