Prime Minister Hun Sen yesterday criticised some unions for planning demonstrations and protest marches in order to secure funding from international donors.
Speaking to more than 20,000 garment workers in Kandal province, Mr Hun Sen said that some unions were taking part in marches so that their funds would not dry up.
“The unions told me that if they do not march, donors abroad will not give them money,” he said. “I send a message to donors and unions: you should understand that by marching, it does not mean that you are independent unions fighting for the freedom of workers.”
Mr Hun Sen noted that on May Day this year, garment workers marking the Labour Day in their factories far outnumbers those taking to the streets for demonstrations.
“They asked for permission from City Hall for 5,000 workers to march, but actually about 500 workers came out,” he said. “It shows that the workers did not come because they enjoyed celebrations at their factories.”
Mr Hun Sen said that the government has done its utmost to address workers’ issues, especially pregnant women being allowed to leave work 15 minutes earlier and receiving bonuses upon delivery.
“We do not ignore the workers’ problems because now pregnant workers can leave work 15 minutes earlier,” Mr Hun Sen said.
Yang Sophorn, president of the Cambodian Alliance Trade Union, denied that union leaders were protesting because they were urged by donors.
“The donors have given us assistance, but they have never recommended us that we protest or demonstrate because our union has clear policies and statutes recognised by the Interior Ministry,” Ms Sorphorn said.
“It is his business, but in my opinion, independent institutions and unions have rights to receive funding from overseas and we have never violated our statutes.”
Ath Thorn, president of Cambodia Labour Confederation, said that foreign donors never recommended unions hold demonstration and strikes to keep funding flowing.On May 1, the CLC demanded that the government increase the minimum wage for garment workers to more than $200 per month.
“Since we submitted petitions, we have not yet seen a good result from the government,” Mr Thorn said. “We see only health issues taken care of, which is just one of 16 points we raised.”
“We are a democratic country so we have laws to allow strikes and demonstrations and regarding May 1, we have done it for ten years to demand that unjust issues be solved,” Mr Thorn added. “We go on strike to send messages to the government to seek solutions; it does not mean that we are against the government.”