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Government deters gatherings on Labour Day amid coronavirus pandemic

Sen David / Khmer Times No Comments Share:
Workers celebrate Labour Day at CDC park in Phnom Penh last year. KT/ Siv Channa

The government called on all employees to celebrate the International Labour Day on May 1 in their homes amid the coronavirus pandemic. The warning comes as Labour Day celebrations are typically met with protests and gatherings of unions.

In a directive issued by Prime Minister Hun Sen yesterday, he said this year’s Labour Day marks the 134th annual celebration of the holiday and is themed “Peace and Decent Work”.

It said the government, through the initiative of the Labour Ministry, is calling on the public to spend the annual holiday in their homes instead of spending it outdoors.

Mr Hun Sen acknowledged the challenges brought by the COVID-19 pandemic, especially in the global economy.

To offset the economic costs of the coronavirus in the Kingdom, he said the government has waived four months’ worth of tax payments

for owners of hotel and guesthouses and given wages to furloughed employees in the tourism sector.

Mr Hun Sen added tax payments have also been forgone for garment factories who have temporarily suspended operations. Their affected workers will be provided with 60 percent of their wages to compensate for the lack of work.

The government, said the premier, has also urged payments for loans, interest, rent and utilities to be waived during the pandemic.

In a press conference on Monday, Labour Ministry spokesman Heng Sour said since the pandemic struck, 130 factories have applied for suspension of operations, effectively affecting more than 100,000 workers.

Mr Sour said the government called on employers to suspend, instead of shut down, their factories’ operations.

“When a company shuts down, its employees will not receive any wages. So, we urged the factories to suspend operations instead so the workers are still afforded some income as they wait for the situation to abate,” he said.

“During this difficult time, employees must strive to keep their jobs as job opportunities have become very limited in this time of crisis,” added Mr Sour.

Yang Sophoan, president of the Cambodian Alliance of Trade Unions, said yesterday every year on Labour Day, the government always limits the number of people who can gather in one place to avoid protests. This year, however, Ms Sophoan said the unions themselves decided against staging gatherings to mitigate risks of coronavirus transmission.

“The unions will hold a discussion on how this year’s Labour Day will be celebrated,” she said, noting the holiday is a significant event where employees and unions talk about labour conditions and gather information about workplace challenges, to be forwarded for government intervention.

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