Prime Minister Hun Sen has invited garment workers to a meeting on August 20 to check their working and living conditions.
The meeting will take place at Phnom Penh’s Koh Pich City Hall and is set to be attended by team leaders and managers from between eight and 10 garment factories.
Speaking at a cabinet meeting on Friday, Mr Hun Sen said he is also planning to make regular visits to staff in factories and rental properties, to see for himself what their work and home environment is like.
“We will ask factory managers to arrange visits for us, so I can go and talk to staff for a couple of hours,” he said. “We created jobs for them so we need to see them at work.”
He said he will talk to workers about their hopes, needs and role in society, adding that factory staff will be given pensions when they retire, just as civil servants receive.
“I want to see how the garment industry has developed since the early 1990s when the monthly wage was $30. The opposition demanded it be raised to $40 at the time, but we helped make it $42,” he said, adding that it is now $153 per month.
The Garment Manufacturers Association in Cambodia welcomed the Prime Minister’s plan to visit factories.
GMAC deputy secretary general Kaing Monika said it is important for political leaders to have direct engagement with workers.
“I think it’s good for Mr Hun Sen to visit workers. It shows he cares about them and it’s important he has an accurate picture of their situation, both of what has improved in their lives and what still needs to improve,” Mr Monika said.
He said the association also hopes the Prime Minister can have face to face meetings with factory owners.
“A meeting between the Prime Minister and a group of factory owners or investors would also be helpful. It’s important to talk directly to investors who have contributed so much to the economy to find out about the challenges they are facing,” Mr Monika said.
Far Saly, president of the National Trade Unions Coalition, also welcomed the Prime Minister’s plan.
“It shows sensitivity that he is trying to understand the living conditions of garment workers both in the workplace and at home,” he said.
“He will be able to see the difficulties workers face with their living conditions, food and health when he goes to see their rental accommodations.”
Mr Saly added that workers could benefit from increased pay and support once the Prime Minister sees their situation clearly.
Unions last week disputed the findings of a survey claiming more than half of garment and footwear industry workers live in good housing conditions.
The research, by the Worker Health Project, said only two percent of workers in the industry were housed in very poor conditions.
But unions argued many garment workers are still faced with very poor living and housing conditions.