The Cambodian Labour Confederation yesterday handed a petition to Prime Minister Hun Sen urging the government to grant unions more freedoms, such as the freedom to assemble in public, to mark International Labour Day.
A total of 20 points were listed in the petition, calling for the government and the National Assembly to increase the minimum wage for garment and footwear factory workers to $250 per month, expand social security services, improve workplace safety, drop all charges against union leaders and activists, halt the use of short term contracts and create a labour court, among others.
CLC in the petition also called for the government to reverse a 2013 ban effectively prohibiting workers from gathering and demonstrating in public spaces.
The petition was handed to government and National Assembly representatives during a sanctioned labour day event outside the Council for the Development of Cambodia office in Phnom Penh.
CLC president Ath Thorn, who led union members in a march around the nearby Wat Phnom, said the government needs to pay more attention to the needs of workers.
“City Hall did not allow us to march to the National Assembly, but they allowed us to march around Wat Phnom,” Mr Thorn said. “I think union and worker rights are restricted, even though working conditions have been better than before.”
At about 10.30am, two representatives of Mr Hun Sen’s cabinet office and the National Assembly arrived to receive the petition.
National Assembly representative Suon Rindy said Mr Hun Sen has already addressed many of the problems listed by CLC.
“I see that Prime Minister Hun Sen has already solved many problems involving our workers, such as minimum wage, social security, health and female issues,” Mr Rindy said. “I will bring all of your demands to our leadership.”
When asked about what Mr Rindy said about the demands already being carried out, Mr Thorn said only a few have been solved, and that some points have yet to garner results.
“I hope our request to the government and the National Assembly this year will be granted,” Mr Thorn said.
Mr Hun Sen also celebrated labour day yesterday with about 3,700 garment workers at the Yi Da factory in Kandal province’s Kien Svay district.
“Today, I am so happy to have a meal and dance with many workers at the Yi Da Manufacturing factory to celebrate International Labour Day on May 1,” he said. “I want to say thanks to all of you for warmly welcoming me, taking photos and dancing with me. It shows respect and love from all of you to me.”
Mr Hun Sen added that garment factory workers are able to celebrate due to peace secured by the previous generation and the government.
“All of you please join the protection of this peace,” he added. “Have peace, have development.”
Additionally, another group rallied at Freedom Park to promote human and labour rights in the Kingdom.
According to the rights group Central, 1,200 workers from across all sectors peacefully gathered at the park to celebrate their contributions to the economy.
A petition listing 11 priority problems regarding the protection and rights of workers was publicised.
Rhona Smith, United Nations Special Rapporteur on Human Rights in Cambodia, who attended both rallies, said the events were an important opportunity to reflect on the right to decent work and an adequate living standard for all workers.
Ms Smith said it is important to achieve equal pay for men and women.
She noted that she was looking forward to amending the Trade Union Law to be more in favour of workers.
“I take this opportunity to welcome the readiness to amend the Trade Union Law and the openness to discuss this among a broad range of stakeholders,” Ms Smith said. “I hope that these amendments will bring the law into line with international standards.”