CAMBODIA: Garment workers' strike garners conflicting reports
Conflicting reports are emerging of the support given to a five-day stay-at-home protest by Cambodia's garment workers trying to put pressure on their bosses to increase wages.
Workers representing eight trade unions were due to extend their Khmer new year holidays which lasted from 13-17 April, staying at home on annual leave from 17-22 April as well.
Ken Chhenglang, vice president of the National Independent Federation of Textile Unions of Cambodia (NIFTUC), told just-style: "Nearly 80% of the country's 600,0000 garment and footwear industry workers participated in the protest."
But the Garment Manufacturers Association in Cambodia (GMAC) disagreed. These union federations "represent the minority of workers," the association said - confirming a story published earlier this week on just-style.
And it is maintaining its opposition to increasing wages after the minimum monthly wage for garment workers was raised from US$80 to US$100 earlier this year. Workers are demanding it be increased to US$160, but the association said it is waiting for a government appointed committee to report on recommended wage levels for the year ahead.
The unions and GMAC also differ over the legality of collective agreements on annual leave.
Garment industry unions asked GMAC to approve annual leave for workers before the new year holidays, giving workers protection over their pay if they joined the stay-at-home protest. But the association said it had no mandate to order time off.
It is the "exclusive right of the employer of each enterprise according to article 2 of the [Cambodia] Labour Law," said the GMAC statement. Moreover, article 313 of the law does not allow unions to request annual leave on behalf of workers, the association added.
Local media reports also suggest that isolated protests have emerged in Svay Rieng, Kandal and Kompong Speu provinces over claims that those who extended the new year break to take part in the demonstration have had their pay docked.
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