Labour minister Ith Samheng has asked factory and business owners to give workers sufficient time off to vote in the commune elections on Sunday, while union leaders are urging bosses to let some staff take several days.
The minister made the call in a statement sent to firms on Monday but obtained by Khmer Times yesterday.
“The Labour Ministry really hopes that all factories and businesses will implement this request,” Mr Samheng said.
Far Saly, president of the National Trade Unions Coalition, said he supported the Labour Minister’s call, saying firms of all sizes must consider their staff’s need to vote, some of whom would need more than one day to travel to the place they are registered.
However, he also encouraged employees to vote near their workplace where possible, rather than spend time and money on travelling to vote in their home towns.
“Not all workers know they can register to vote near their workplace and some still register at their home town,” he said.
Mr Saly said he had been talking to workers and many had not even registered to vote.
Ath Thorn, president of the Coalition of Cambodian Apparel Workers Democratic Union, said he hoped employers would heed the Labour Ministry and National Election Committee’s calls to give workers time off to vote.
“I think the ministry’s statement is more powerful than the NEC’s previous letter,” he said.
However, Mr Thorn said the ministry should also have mentioned that workers may need more than one day off.
Mr Thorn will file a petition to Mr Samheng today, requesting workers be allowed to take Saturday and Monday off to travel to and from their home towns.
Opposition CNRP president Kem Sokha, meanwhile, called on all garment and footwear industry workers to vote.
“The CNRP strongly hopes the workers will invest their time, money and effort in voting wherever they are registered, however near or far,” Mr Sokha said yesterday.
Kuy Sreykeng, an administrative officer for Sabrina (Cambodia) Garment Manufacturing in Kampong Speu province, said she read the Labour Ministry statement, which stopped short of ordering bosses to give workers days off.
“Our factory did not issue any instruction for workers to take time off because the election is on Sunday, when they are already off,” she said.
Ms Sreykeng added that most workers at the factory are from Kampong Speu or neighbouring Takeo, so do not have far to travel.
She said her hometown was in Takeo, but she had registered to vote near her workplace.
However, many garment and footware factory workers are registered to vote in their home provinces a long way from the factories they work in and may need extra time to make the journey home to vote.