Plans Push Ahead for New Garment Rally

After wildcat strikes sent ripples through the garment industry last week, trade unions said yesterday that Phnom Penh authorities had yet to react to a rally planned for Sunday, but said preparations for an open forum at Wat Botum Park were going ahead.

“I did not yet receive any information from the Phnom Penh municipality,” said Ath Thon, president of the Cambodian Labor Confederation, which comprises two unions, adding that he informed City Hall of the plans on Wednesday.

Thousands of workers at garment factories last week expressed resentment toward a July 8 decision by the Labor Advisory Committee, a joint policy-making body, to raise the minimum wage by $5 to $61 per month and not $20, as workers demanded.

Garment workers “should have the possibility to discuss what can be done about their living conditions and their feelings about the $5 increase,” Mr Thon said. “We invite the workers already. They are preparing their transport already, such as tuk-tuks and buses.”

“People have the right to conduct a public forum, and people have the freedom of expression and of assembly,” he said, adding that unions were willing to discuss the details of the planned forum with the municipality.

“If [City Hall] doesn’t agree we will meet and talk about the solution, since we cannot work alone,” said Morm Nhim, president of the Cambodian National Confederation, adding she expected around 10,000 workers to attend the rally.

“We will gather to ask the workers if they agree to $5 [increase]. If they say they cannot accept this increase we continue to help them,” she said.

The Free Trade Union last week decided to support the $5 increase although it had previously threatened to strike unless wages rose by at least $20. FTU President Chea Mony could not be reached for comment yesterday, and it remained unclear whether the FTU would support the plans for a public forum for garment workers.

Officials at the Phnom Penh municipal government were unavailable for comment yesterday. Ministry of Interior spokesman Lieutenant General Khieu Sopheak referred all questions about the rally to City Hall.


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