Union To Hold May Day Protest

The Free Trade Union of the Workers of the Kingdom of Cambodia will hold its third annual Labor Day march Wednesday, despite the Phnom Penh government’s denial of a permit.

In previous years the Free Trade Union has requested and received permission to demonstrate for three straight days.

This year its proposal to march only on May Day morning was refused.

The municipality gave no official explanation for the denial, but Phnom Penh Governor Chea Sophara criticized the planned protest.

“They don’t know that May Day is for celebrating the workers. It’s not for making demonstrations,” Chea Sophara said.

“We demonstrate for the sake of national interests. We make demands to the factory bosses, not to the government,” said Phourg Motry, the Free Trade Union’s press director.

At a meeting on Sunday, members of the Free Trade Union and worker representatives agreed on five points of protest.

The marchers will demand their monthly salaries be in­creased from $45 to $70. They also want to work 40 hours a week instead of 48. This would give them a two-day weekend. “We want them to have free time so they can learn extra skills,” Phourg Motry said.

Factory bosses often hire workers on a temporary basis. Labor laws say workers should be granted permanent employee status and better pay after three months, but Phourg Motry said some bosses fire the workers after three months and hire a new temporary staff, keeping salary costs to a minimum. The protesters want this practice stopped.

The protesters will also de­mand that an efficient, independent court system be established. Phourg Motry said the Cambo­dian courts are too corrupt. He said he had to pay a clerk $50 just to sign a complaint form.

Finally, the workers and the Free Trade Union want factory bosses to respect the rights of unionized workers.

On May Day 2000, around 10,000 protesters hit Phnom Penh’s streets, marching to the National Assembly. Last year, about 1,000 participated.


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