Labor Minister Says Unions Have No Reason to Complain

Labor Minister Ith Sam Heng on Wednesday denied recent claims from a group of disgruntled unions that the government was making it nearly impossible to register branches at garment factories, and announced a new push to bring noncompliant factories in line with Cambodia’s labor laws.

Last month, a group of eight unions held a joint press conference to complain that the Labor Ministry rejected every single one of their applications to register branches inside of garment factories in 2014 and accused the government of blocking them at the behest of the employers.

The factories quickly rejected the accusation. And at the Labor Ministry’s annual conference on Wednesday, Mr. Sam Heng did the same.

“We have just collected the information, and we have not restricted it,” he said. “In this year [2014], 200 [branches] were registered.”

The labor minister failed to say exactly which of the country’s many unions had their applications approved, however, and whether they included any of the eight that said their efforts were all blocked.

Those unions complained that part of the problem was an arbitrary new rule requiring prospective branch representatives to have clean criminal records. Mr. Sam Heng defended the rules and said the ministry would help the unions with the paperwork.

At the conference, the minister also announced that 50 garment factories had been given warnings for being in breach of various labor rules.

“The mistakes of the factories are different for each factory,” he said. “Some factories do not follow health and hygiene standards and other conditions. This [warning] will make them improve, and they have agreed to do so.”

He said factories that failed to heed the warning would be fined. Those that continued not to improve would be prosecuted.

But Mr. Sam Heng declined to name any of the factories that had been warned. He also failed to explain how long they would be given to mend their ways, or what fines they would face if they did not.

Labor Ministry spokesman Heng Suor could not be reached for comment.

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