Unions Say Forced Overtime Widespread

A debate surrounding overtime work at garment factories, spark­ed during Friday’s World Bank-sponsored conference, ex­tended into Monday as union representatives accused factories of forcing them to work past regular hours.

Morm Nhim, president of the 10,000-worker National Inde­pendent Federation of Textile Unions, said Monday that many of her union leaders have complained to her of forced, undercompensated overtime.

“We are the victims,” she said.

The issue of overtime was raised at Friday’s conference by Chhorn Sokha, vice-president of the Coalition of Cambo­dian Ap­pa­rel Workers Demo­cratic Union. She urged buyers to pressure gar­ment factories to stop requiring staff to work overtime, which she defined as in excess of 10 hours a day and below the 150 percent pay rate required by law.

She also urged the government to keep the pay rate for night work—between 10 pm and 6 am—at 200 percent of normal wages, as is currently required under the Labor Law.

Van Sui Ieng, president of the Garment Manufacturers Asso­ci­ation of Cambodia, responded on Friday, saying that there are no instances of forced overtime.

Commerce Ministry officials, meanwhile, said they backed a reduction in the night shift wage.

Chuon Mom Thol, president of the CPP-backed, 75,000-worker Cambodian Union Federation said Monday that only a small percentage of factories actually force workers to perform overtime.

In fact, he said, “I think sometimes the worker is the one who requests overtime work.”

He added that he was in favor of lowering the 200 percent pay rate for night work.

“We lost a lot of jobs at nighttime because factories did not want to pay 200 percent,” he said.

Chea Mony of the opposition-backed, 40,000-worker Free Trade Union, however, alleged Monday that nearly all factory owners force workers to work overtime.

“Manufacturers should practice the 200 percent wage rate as the Labor Law says,” he added.

According to a December re­port by the International Labor Or­ga­nization monitoring team, 34 factories out of Cambodia’s 230 garment factories were not implementing recommendations to make overtime voluntary. An additional 10 were only partly implementing those recommendations.

“There has been some im­provement in ensuring that overtime work is undertaken voluntarily and that overtime hours are within legal limits though these remain a problem in a number of factories,” the report concluded.


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