Labor Minister to Face Lawmakers’ Questions

Labor Minister Ith Sam Heng has agreed to appear before lawmakers today to answer questions about ongoing minimum wage negotiations for garment workers, a controversial draft union law and other pressing labor issues, according to the opposition CNRP.

CNRP lawmaker Ke Sovannaroth, who heads the National Assembly’s labor commission, said that last week she had invited Mr. Sam Heng to a question-and-answer session at parliament, and that the invitation had been accepted.

“The Ministry of Labor has told us that the minister will come to the meeting,” she said, adding that members of the Assembly’s 10 parliamentary committees were also invited to the meeting.

“We will take the opportunity to talk with the minister about the workers’ concerns and requests,” Ms. Sovannaroth said.

Neither Mr. Sam Heng nor ministry spokesman Heng Suor could be reached for confirmation.

Ms. Sovannaroth and other lawmakers from both the CNRP and CPP met Monday morning with representatives from the six labor unions that organized a march through Phnom Penh on Sunday for a higher minimum wage for garment workers.

The government, garment factories and unions are in the midst of negotiations for a new monthly minimum wage for the sector— currently set at $100—to take effect in January.

Factories are refusing to offer anything more than $110 while unions involved in the talks say they won’t go below $150.

Pav Sina, head of the Collective Union of Movement of Workers, said the unions told the lawmakers that they want a higher minimum wage, an end to what they consider unlawful restrictions on unionizing at factories and a repeal of sections of the draft union law they feel are too restrictive.

“We will wait for the Ministry of Labor’s response to our requests,” Mr. Sina said. “If they do not meet our demands, we will hold mass demonstrations for a minimum wage the workers can accept.”

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