One of the world’s largest union federations, the 158 million-member International Confederation of Free Trade Unions, has made a scathing attack on the suppression of labor unions in Cambodia.
“Through the repression of the rights of workers to form unions, demonstrate peacefully or go on strike, the Cambodian authorities are undermining the advantages on which the country’s economy depends,” states the ICFTU report, which is based on a four-month investigation and was obtained Tuesday.
“Cambodia’s better level of respect for worker’s rights inside factories provides its only significant edge over it rivals,” the report added.
The federation says that the end of the garment quota system, in which access to the US market depended on good labor standards, has given “employers the upper hand in factories.”
Because International Labor Organization monitoring “ends at the factory gates, they are powerless in cases of violence committed outside,” the report adds.
The report also cites the violent police crackdown on protests in front of Phnom Penh’s Russei Keo district’s Sam Han garment factory in February.
“These crackdowns…betray a lack of strategic vision on the part of the Cambodian government,” it said.
The report also mentions other practices that it says are undermining the nation’s reputation.
Factories are temporarily closing as part of strategy to fire workers without compensation, it states.
It dubs the use of criminal law against union leaders for calling strikes “counter to internationally recognized principles.”
The report also alleges that corrupt police officers force factory owners to hire unqualified security guards who then abuse workers with impunity.
Minister of Labor Nhep Bunchin said he was too busy to talk when reached by phone Tuesday.
Labor Ministry Secretary of State Oum Mean said he would not comment until he had read the report.
Free Trade Union President Chea Mony, whose brother Chea Vichea was assassinated in January 2004, said the FTU has been providing information to the ICFTU about the deterioration of labor rights in Cambodia. He said the FTU is in membership talks with the ICFTU.
“The report understands that the government doesn’t respect workers’ rights,” he said.