Minister Says Union Strikes Threatening Garment Industry

Union leaders on Thursday rejected a suggestion by Com­merce Minister Cham Prasidh’s that union-led strikes are driving factories out of Cambodia, arguing that active organized labor would draw investors to the country.

“The more strikes and protest are allowed freely in Cambodia, the more buyers will be interested to order from Cam­bodia,” said Cambodian Union Federation President Chuom Mum Thal. “Strikes are a sign of la­bor rights, and [show] that Cam­bodia is a democratic country.”

In the last decade, some 70 factories have left Cambodia because of strikes and labor unrest, Cham Prasidh said Wednes­day at the University of Law and Eco­nom­ics.“They [investors] have mon­ey,” he said. “They can move elsewhere if strikes remain. Then the buyers will consider buying clothing [made] elsewhere, such as China or India.”

Noting that up to 30 million garment workers worldwide could lose their jobs when quotas for World Trade Organization members expire at the end of this year, Cham Prasidh warned that the global garment industry could eventually shrink to only five to

10 manufacturing countries.

“If all alliances do not help each other, the industry will go away from Cambodia,” he said.

Labor leaders disputed the min­­ister’s claims Thursday, saying that the presence of strong labor unions would attract socially-conscious investors.

Morm Nhim, president of the National Independent Federation of Textile Unions of Kampuchea, disagreed with the idea that strikes had already forced out factories. Labor law violations and high under-the-table costs are more of a deterrent to business in Cambodia than unions, she said.

Government and labor officials are nervously waiting to see how Cambodia’s $1.5 billion garment industry will perform in 2005 and wondering what the fate of the 265,000 workers employed at 212 factories will be. Collective salaries total $228 million per year, Cham Prasidh said.

Earlier this year, 10,000 workers lost their jobs when two large factories, Sam Han and Luen Thai, suspended operations.

“At the end of 2004, we will be really concerned,” Cham Prasidh said. “If buyers are not happy, workers will lose their jobs.”

 

By Kay Kimsong

the cambodia daily

Union leaders on Thursday rejected a suggestion by Commerce Minister Cham Prasidh’s that union-led strikes were driving factories out of Cambodia, arguing that active organized labor would draw investors to the country.

“Believe me, the more strikes and protest are allowed freely in Cambodia, the more buyers will be interested to order from Cambodia,” said Cambodian Union Federation President Chuom Mum Thal. “Strikes are a sign of labor rights, and [show] that Cambodia is a democratic country.”

In the last decade, roughly 70 factories have left Cambodia specifically because of excessive strikes and labor unrest, Cham Prasidh had told reporters Wednesday at the University of Law and Economics.

“They [investors] have money…so they can move elsewhere if strikes remain. Then the buyers will consider buying clothing [made] elsewhere, such as China or India,” Cham Prasidh said.

Noting that up to 30 million garment workers worldwide could lose their jobs when quotas for World Trade Organization members expires at the end of this year, Cham Prasidh warned that the global garment industry could eventually shrink to only five to 10 manufacturing countries.

“If all alliances do not help each other, the industry will go away from Cambodia,” he said.

Labor leaders disputed the minister’s claims Thursday, saying that the presence of strong labor unions would attract socially-conscious investors.

Morm Nhim, president of the National Independent Federation of Textile Unions of Kampuchea disagreed with the suggestion that labor strikes had already forced out factories.

Labor law violations and high under-the-table costs are more of a deterrent to doing business in Cambodia than unions, she said.

Government and labor officials alike are nervously eyeing the $1.5 billion national garment industry’s performance in 2005 and the fate of the 265,000 currently employed at 212 factories. Collective salaries total $228 million per year, Cham Prasidh said.

Earlier this year, 10,000 workers lost their jobs when two large factories, Sam Han and Luen Thai, suspended their operations.

“At the end of 2004, we will be really concerned” with competition, Cham Prasidh said. “So we have to learn how to make up our face, in order to get clients to stay with us and buy our products. If buyers are not happy, workers will lose their jobs.”

 

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