Unions to Decide on Proposed Strikes During Meeting Today

Union leaders appeared to be at odds yesterday over whether garment workers should go ahead with threatened strikes that would see about 80 factories close their doors for a week.

Ath Thon, president of the Cam­bo­dian Labor Confederation—the group spearheading the proposed strikes along with the Cambo­dian National Confeder­ation—said he would ask members of the CLC and other unions participating in the strikes whether or not to proceed at a meeting today.

“We have not yet made the decision. I had negotiations with employers and now we need to report to our members,” he said.

Mr Thon did not rule out going ahead with the work stoppages–set for Sept 13 to 18—but said negotiations with employers held on Mon­day had been promising. “Before they said ‘no way,’ but now we have came together once already,” he said.

CLC Secretary-General Kong Athit struck a more defiant tone.

“We are going to start the strike on the 13th, so we need to organize,” he said, adding that the meeting tomorrow would focus on how to conduct the strike. Mr Athit admitted that negotiations were still possible, but said the meeting with the Garment Manufacturers Association in Cambodia on Monday did not change his mind. “We got a very negative re­sponse from GMAC yesterday…. They are not going to negotiate. They just trick us,” he said yesterday.

Mr Thon emerged from Mon­day’s meeting saying that GMAC had agreed to negotiate later in the year on salary supplements like overtime pay and an attendance bonus.

Ken Loo, GMAC secretary-general, said he had met Mr Thon informally during another meeting yesterday and “reiterated [GMAC’s] po­sition in case it was misunderstood.”

He said employers would not ne­gotiate again on the minimum wage, a position GMAC has maintained since the Labor Advisory Commi­ttee set a new wage of $61 for garment workers on July 8.

“With respect to all other re­quests, GMAC is open to discussion or negotiation provided one or both of our conditions are met,” he said.

Negotiations could go ahead if unions made all approaches through the LAC, or if they approached employers with a single unified voice and a clear mandate from Cambo­dia’s garment workers, he said.

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