Representatives of Cambodia’s most active garment-factory worker union have demanded two days off for the country’s workers in order to provide ample time to vote in Cambodia’s history-making Feb 3 commune elections. Many of the workers need the extra time to travel to their home communes to vote, the union says.
Union representatives of the Free Trade Union of the Workers of the Kingdom of Cambodia are requesting workers be given the Saturday before and the Monday after election day off, to give them the time they need to make the necessary journeys without deductions to their salaries.
“Most workers come from provinces that are very far away, and there are only eight hours to vote,” Union Chairman Chea Vichea said.
The proposed time off drew criticism from Cambodian Garment Manufacturer’s Association President Van Sou Ieng.
“Voting is their civic obligation. They should be doing so at their own cost and not other people’s. Sunday is everybody’s day off, so they all can vote,” Van Sou Ieng said.
Om Mean, director general of Labor and Vocational Training at the Ministry of Labor, said his organization hasn’t yet received the request from the union and they haven’t scheduled any discussion on the subject. The issue “is up to Minister Ith Samheng, and he is now abroad,” Om Mean said.
A similar deal was struck in July between the government, factory owners and union workers that allowed workers time off to register for the commune elections.
Workers were paid during their absences, provided they had not used up all of their holiday time. They were also allowed to retain their $5 monthly bonuses for perfect attendance if they could prove they used the time to register for the elections.
Opposition leaders have said that many of their supporters are among Cambodia’s workers and the laborers are being disenfranchised, which has weakened the opposition’s chances in the polls.