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Thousands Rally For Labor Day, Demand Wage Increase

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Workers rallied yesterday while demanding the minimum wage be raised to $207 a month. KT/Chor Sokunthea

Thousands of workers and unions gathered yesterday to celebrate the 130th International Labor Day, once again demanding the government raise the minimum wage in the garment and footwear industries to $207 a month.
More than 1,000 workers from the Cambodian Labor Confederation (CLC) gathered outside the Russian Embassy and attempted to march to the National Assembly to file a petition on the wage increase.
However, the march was blocked by police barriers, with about 50 police stationed there and rerouting the marchers, who were not allowed to the front of the National Assembly. Instead they were told to celebrate nearby.
While the protest remained peaceful, marchers expressed their disappointment, criticizing the government for blocking them on an internationally recognized holiday.   
CLC president Ath Thorn, who led the march, said unions and workers asked the government and the National Assembly to increase the wage to $207 a month for garment and footwear workers, and to $250 a month for civil servants, along with limiting the minimum wage for workers in other sectors.
“The labor sector is still faced with many problems such as low wages, long hours, hazardous workplace [environments], discrimination towards unions, union officials imprisoned, violence and intimidation toward the unions,” he said.
Ek Sopheakdey, the vice-president of the C.CAWDU, said yesterday that the government should think about a decent minimum wage for workers because the wage is their lives, dignity and also the breath of the nation’s economy.
“The government and the National Assembly have to think about the wage for workers and a wage that can allow them to live decently is $207 per month. Now they receive only $140 per month and the workers in the construction sector receive only $130 per month, the tourism sector receives only between $70 and $100 per month and in agriculture they receive only $40 per month. So, how can they live? Their wage is not as much as the powerful people or rich people pay for their lunch,” he said.
Meanwhile, more than 1,000 workers from the garment, service, hospitality, agricultural and other sectors led by the Cambodian Food and Service Workers’ Federation, Cambodian Confederation Union and others gathered at the National Stadium yesterday to celebrate and march to the Ministry of Labor, but police blocked them inside the stadium and would not let them march.
Despite the workers’ demands, Minister of Labor Ith Samheng said yesterday that the government is determined to improve people’s standard of living, citing the previous minimum wage.
“The government always pays attention to improve the living standards and labor conditions of workers. Nearly 10 years ago, we increased the minimum wage continuously 10 times already since 2014 and we created the formula to calculate the minimum wage which all relevant parties can accept,” he said.
Mr. Samheng said the government announced its policy to increase the minimum wage for workers to at least $160 per month and the salary for civil servants and the armed forces to at least 1 million riel by 2018.
Prime Minister Hun Sen met with workers at Sihanoukville port and celebrated the day with them, but thought the day should be renamed to International Human Resource Day, remarking that the term ‘labor day’ was outdated.
“The International Labor Day in this time in the world should be changed to International Human Resources Day. It was named 130 years ago, and it should change. Because in reality we are improving our human resource training, but the world still says the same.
“But I hope that one day Cambodia will call May 1 International Human Resources Day,” he said.
Mr. Hun Sen also urged investment companies and  the Labor Ministry to pay attention to worker’s wages and working conditions.

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