The Ministry of Labor yesterday called on garment workers to ignore calls by the Free Trade Union to strike over minimum-wage levels and to wait for a joint policy-making body, the Labor Advisory Committee, to resolve the issue.
The government request followed a May 23 vote by 200 FTU chiefs representing 80,000 union members to strike for three days if the advisory committee failed to raise the minimum wage from $50 to $70 by May 31. The LAC comprises officials from the government, the Garment Manufacturers Association in Cambodia and a CPP-affiliated trade union.
The ministry’s announcement, dated June 3 and published yesterday in Koh Santepheap Daily newspaper, said a strike would be premature, as the LAC had not finished negotiations begun in February.
“The Labor Advisory Committee has already made progress in meetings over the minimum wage for the garment factory sector,” according to the statement. “In terms of the [issue] not being reconciled, it must be sent to the Arbitration Council. If it is still not reconciled, then there can be a legal strike.”
Oum Mean, secretary of state at the Labor Ministry, said a strike at this stage was not the best option for workers, and that the ministry is waiting to hear from GMAC and the Cambodia Union Federation about scheduling a new meeting.
“If they strike three or 300 days without discussing at a roundtable, it still does not have a solution,” he said.
FTU President Chea Mony said yesterday he had not received a response from the ministry or from GMAC over the threat to strike, and had not seen yesterday’s published notice.
“If they continue to not respond to us, we will send a notification to the Interior Ministry of a work stoppage,” he said. “It could happen in more or less than three days. It’s up to GMAC.”
GMAC Chairman Van Sou Ieng said the manufacturers association needed more time to consider the issue.
“We have around six or seven months before the meeting,” he said. “We are researching this first. We cannot just raise the salary.”
Chuon Mom Thol, president of the CPP-affiliated Cambodian Union Federation and vice president of the Labor Advisory Committee, said he would request that the LAC hold a meeting before September.
He criticized the planned strike, saying, “It won’t help. They should wait until the results of the [LAC] meeting come out.”