Garment workers have called off a strike for a shorter work week that was to have started Tuesday, saying a key committee has agreed to discuss the issue.
Members of the Free Trade Union of the Workers of the Kingdom of Cambodia had vowed to walk off the job May 1—International Labor Day—because the Labor Advisory Committee would not discuss reducing the workweek from 48 to 44 hours.
But after informal talks involving the Garment Manufacturers Association of Cambodia and the Cambodian Union Federation, which backed the FTU’s request, the LAC has agreed to take up the matter.
George McLeod, international liaison officer with the Free Trade Union of the Workers of the Kingdom of Cambodia, hailed the outcome as a major step forward for labor relations in Cambodia.
“Every single party wanted to avoid a dispute,” he said. “This represents avoiding a work stoppage, not through confrontation, but through negotiation. That’s never happened before.”
Van Sou Ieng, president of the Garment Manufacturers Association of Cambodia, also welcomed the news. “We are happy to hear they are reasonable people,” he said.
No date has been set for the advisory committee meeting. The committee, made up of five union leaders, five industry representatives and 10 government officials, had originally declined to discuss cutting the workweek because its length is set by Cambodia’s labor law.
But when the Free Trade Union said it would strike over the issue, LAC co-chairmen Van Sou Ieng and Chuon Mum Thol, president of the Cambodia Union Federation, agreed to back the FTU request.
FTU members will still demonstrate Tuesday on behalf of a number of union goals, including better working conditions, protection from arbitrary dismissal, as well as the shorter workweek.
Members of Cambodia’s four other garment worker unions, however, issued a statement saying they would not join the demonstration in the interests of “peace and stability.”