Ministry Official Denies Labor Wrongdoing

Cambodia’s top labor official on Thursday denied allegations by a US union that his ministry has undermined efforts to form independent unions.

Speaking at a meeting of government, labor and garment in­dustry representatives, Secre­tary of State Suy Sem said the Mi­nis­try of Social Affairs, Labor and Ve­teran Affairs has tried hard to­ enforce the labor law.

The meeting was in response to a complaint made in June to the US Trade Representative by the American Federation of La­bor and Congress of Industrial Or­ganizations. The organization urged the US to revoke Ge­ne­ra­li­zed System of Preferences trade pri­vileges over allegations that workers’ rights are being abused.

The meeting was called by Cam­bodian-American businessman Ted Ngoy in an attempt to keep the special status.

Although garments do not re­ceive special tariff rates under GSP, workers rights are taken into account when the US does its annual review of GSP status.

The AFL-CIO accused the Soc­ial Affairs Ministry of making it ea­sier for pro-CPP unions to register than opposition affiliated groups, and of interfering in shop steward elections and collective bargaining.

At the meeting, the ministry de­nied any discrimination in the union registration process and stated that it only rejected unions whose applications were in­complete or whose structure did not follow regulations. The ministry statement also re­jected charges that it had interfered with shop steward elections at factories.

Both private and public sector officials at the meeting acknow­ledg­ed there have been some cases of factories breaking the la­bor law, but they blamed it main­ly on cultural misunder­stand­ings; many garment factory owners are from Malaysia, China and Taiwan. They urged both workers and managers to try to work out disputes through mediation.

Cambodia Investment Board Se­cretary General Soun Sothy  asked workers and factories to try to cooperate.

“GSP is the rice pot of the wor­kers and the government,” said Soun Sothy. “With no GSP there will be no investment.”

The meeting came just a few hours after approximately 100  wor­kers at the Chinese-owned Thean Yean Cambodia Gar­­ment factory staged a demonstration in front of the US Em­bassy.

Suy Sem said that a delegation from the Social Affairs Ministry had mediated the dis­pute and the workers would be back on the job today.

Workers at the Meanchey district factory claimed Thursday that managers levy 500-riel fines if workers break needles or stop work to go to the bathroom or get a drink of water.

When the factory’s 500 employees tried to stage a strike Thursday morning, they said, management locked them inside compound gates. The gate was unlocked when the workers started rattling it, they said.



Related Stories

Latest News

The Weekly DispatchA weekly newsletter from The Cambodia Daily delivering news, analysis and opinion to your inbox. Published every Friday at 11:30am. Sign up today.