Inflation Cause of Financial Setbacks for FTU

The Free Trade Union, likely the largest pro-SRP labor union, has been dealt a financial blow by inflation in recent months and has been forced to move its headquarters and downsize its staff, FTU President Chea Mony said.

Inflation has rendered many of FTU’s members unable to pay their monthly dues of 1,000 riel—300 riel of which go to FTU’s na­tional office, Chea Mony said Mon­day. Being totally reliant on these dues, the national office’s overall monthly budget has fallen $1,000 short of the needed $2,500 in April and May, he said.

“The workers have a small salary and many of them do not pay their monthly fees,” Chea Mony said.

FTU has moved from its headquarters where they have been for roughly a decade in Phnom Penh’s Daun Penh district to Chamkar Mon district, a location closer to its sister union, the Cambodian Independent Teachers’ Asso­ciation, with whom they have formed the Cambodian Confeder­ation Union.

They have also had to lay off two of their 22 staff members, Chea Mony said, adding that he has al­ways worked on a volunteer basis and never received a salary.

“If we continue to face the same problem, we will lack officials to solve labor disputes,” he said.

Chea Mony appealed to members to pay their dues and said he would also explore outside funding options, which he has never had to do before.

Nuon Veasna, a worker education project coordinator at the UN’s International Labor Organization, said that he hadn’t heard about FTU’s financial woes but would look into the matter.

Ensuring funds and getting members to pay their dues is a constant challenge for independent unions like the FTU, he said.

“Financial difficulties are a common feature of Cambodian trade unions,” he said.

Nuon Veasna said that he didn’t think independent unions were getting weaker in Cam­bodia overall.

He said they do face continuing difficulties based on the fact that they lack consistent financial and technical support.

Nuon Veasna also said that, for some members, the issue might not be inflation but rather a lack of understanding as to the necessity of paying dues.

“If members understand the returns from their contributions, they will pay,” he said.

Ath Thon, president of the Coalition of Cambodia Apparel Democratic Unions, said that his union is not facing financial difficulties because their approximately 40,000 members have been paying their monthly fees of 1,000 riel.

“I have small funding from overseas, but we were recently able to raise union fees. Within a few more years, if we continue to be able to raise the fee, we will be independent,” he said.

Ath Thon added that he credits good union management with their financial success.

Ministry of Labor Under­se­cretary of State Oum Mean said the issue of unions’ funding does not concern the government.

“The unions and employers must coordinate the case,” he said, adding that he wondered why other independent unions were able to cope and not the FTU.

   (Additional reporting by Emily Lodish)

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