Union Bashes Wage Hike, Ponders National Strike

The Free Trade Union (FTU) is unhappy with the size of the raise agreed to this week by manufacturers for garment workers and said it would meet next week to decide whether to hold a nationwide strike in August for a larger increase, said FTU president Chea Mony.

At the Ministry of Labor on Wednesday, the government and manufacturers agreed with seven union leaders to provide an extra $7 per month in allowances for transportation and housing, bringing the minimum monthly wage to $73. An additional $3 will also be added to the $7 increase that workers al­ready take home each month for full monthly attendance.

Mr. Mony had demanded at least $10 in housing and transportation benefits, and he said in June that if his demands were not met by the Labor Advisory Coun­cil (LAC), he would stage a nationwide strike in August.

“I cannot accept this silly Labor Advisory Council decision be­cause it is the lowest amount demanded by those representing the employees,” said Mr. Mony. “I will summon all the union chiefs of FTU in about 300 factories in all the provinces to discuss the LAC’s decision in the third week of this month.”

“I can’t predict [if the nationwide strike will still happen]. Wait and see on our meetings, but I don’t care if other unions will join us or not, because some unions have interests [aligned] with the government,” Mr. Mony added.

Ath Thorn, president of the Coalition of Cambodian Apparel Workers Democratic Union and one of the seven union leaders present during the LAC’s decision, reiterated that he would have preferred a $10 raise, as some factories already provided that amount voluntarily.

However, he said the decision was a step forward and signaled a willingness by manufacturers to improve the lot of workers in the country.

“My colleagues and I are not really happy, because this amount is not what we really want…[but] employers are also committed to negotiate for the next few months on more allowances, like for meals or special bonuses,” said Mr. Thorn. “I will not join Chea Mony, but I don’t object to his strike.”

(Additional reporting by Dene-Hern Chen)

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