Free Speech / Garment Industry / News / Union

In Face of Repression, Unions Drum Up Strike Support

by Mom Kunthear and Sean Teehan  /  Phnom Penh Post

At the site where security forces shot dead at least four people during a nationwide strike on January 3, union leaders yesterday passed out fliers encouraging workers to join a stay-at-home strike after Khmer New Year.

When workers filed out of Canadia Industrial Park’s gates for their 11am lunch break, Seam Sambath, president of the Workers Friendship Union Federation, made his case to passing garment workers – action similar to that which resulted in a unionist being detained in Svay Rieng province on Sunday.

“We must work together in order to help workers earn higher wages and enjoy better living conditions,” he said.

Authorities did not interfere with the group, from at least three unions, as it handed out fliers about the strike, scheduled for April 17 to April 22, to workers at several factories along Veng Sreng Boulevard.

The 18 unions that signed the flier demand the Ministry of Labour raise the $100 minimum monthly garment wage to $160 and drop charges against 23 people arrested during demonstrations on January 2 and 3.

In a statement posted on its Facebook page, the Garment Manufacturers Association in Cambodia say the Labour Ministry already set the 2014 minimum wage, and that cases against the 23 defendants – 21 of whom are still detained – are a court matter.

Yesterday’s flier distribution came amid a week of multiple measures taken against unionists in Cambodia.

On Sunday, police in Svay Rieng temporarily detained a Collective Union of Movement of Workers member who was delivering about 5,000 fliers to other union activists. Police released him after three hours, but kept the fliers.

A Phnom Penh Municipal Court prosecutor charged Coalition of Cambodian Apparel Workers’ Democratic Union (C.CAWDU) president Ath Thorn and union member Pav Phanna with incitement on Tuesday, stemming from a four-month C.CAWDU-led strike at SL Garment.

Thorn will be charged $25,000 bail, to be paid within 15 days of receipt of the judge’s official letter, which Kim Socheat, Thorn’s attorney, expects to receive by the end of the week.

Phanna is required to report to police once a month, while neither are allowed to leave Cambodia during the course of the investigation.

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