US Union Rep Rips Ministry

A US labor union has blasted the government response to allegations Cambodian workers’ rights are being violated, ac­cusing the Social Affairs Ministry of “whitewashing” the complaints rather than addressing them.

“It looks like [the ministry] is just trying to bluff and bluster their way though,” said Philip Robert­son, the Thailand country representative for the American Federation of Labor and Con­gress of Industrial Organizations.

Robertson was referring to two memorandums released by the ministry, one in July and another in August. In them, the ministry defended itself against the allegations made by the AFL-CIO in a complaint to the US Trade Rep­resentative in June. The union has called on the US to withdraw Cambodia’s General­ized System of Privileges trade status.

“A lot of this is weak,” said Robertson of the memo. “Instead of responding to our complaints in a constructive way, they are spinning things and denying any responsibility.”

Social Affairs Secretary of State Suy Sem could not be reached for comment Tuesday.

The most serious charges revolve around the Gold Kamvi­mex garment factory, which Robertson called the “most blatant example” of attempts by the ministry to interfere in an independent union. Among its allegations are that ministry representatives sat in a factory meeting and remained silent when Gold Kam­vimex threatened to close the factory if the union did not elect the company’s nominees for shop stewards. The ministry denies any wrongdoing.

Robertson said he expects a sub-committee to review the complaint in November.

 

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