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Young workers in Cambodia commit to building union power

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21 September, 201835 young trade unionists in Textile, Garment, Shoes and Leather (TGSL) industries from IndustriALL Cambodian affiliates held a workshop in Phnom Penh on 14-15 September on the increasing young workers’ participation in trade unions.

Young unionists from ten affiliates in TGSL sectors in Cambodia raised their concerns over decreasing unionization rate among young workers in the sector. Young unionists identified their union structures in terms of membership, committees and their unions’ dynamics.

They described the challenges they face at work and in society: the precarity of their daily lives, limited education at schools and lack of training at work, more overtime work and limited knowledge of trade unions among young workers.

Young unionists discussed the trade union movement in Cambodia, focusing on why young workers do not know much about unions, and how they could be convinced to become active members. They raised questions, such as: are young workers only worried about losing their jobs, or are they also concerned about facing discrimination at their workplaces after becoming active union members? How do we cope with these issues?

The young workers raised their concerns about the security of employment in Cambodia. Most of them are employed on a fixed duration contract for only two years. As negotiations on minimum wage in Cambodia go on, participants also deepened their knowledge on living wages and global framework agreements.

IndustriALL’s action plan commits to taking measures to ensure that its structures and actions encompass equitable representation of all workers, men and women, younger and older, and from the different regions. Participants engaged with IndustriALL policies and campaigns and deepened their information about the sector. Participants discussed the equal participation of women and men in decision-making at their workplaces and unions, by ensuring more active integration of young workers.

Jenny Holdcroft, IndustriALL assistant general secretary, said:

“IndustriALL Global Union recognizes the role of young workers in building strong and sustainable unions. We need more young people participating in trade unions, as well as young people working in factories recruiting other young people.

“We need new ideas, we need inspiration, we need to connect with new workers as they come into the workplace. There are many young workers that need a voice, and need trade unions to represent them for negotiations for better wages, better working conditions.”

Participants decided to build more engagement with young workers at their workplaces as well as their unions, and to create active youth and womens’ structures at their unions so that they would be able to educate young workers on trade union work.

Participants committed to organizing regular workplace meetings and training on labour law, collective bargaining agreements and gender equality, to recruit and mobilize more young workers. They committed to fighting to eliminate violence at their workplaces. Participants will take part in World Decent Work Day activities this year, and they agreed to have further leadership training. Some of the participants would join IndustriALL South East Asia Youth Exchange meetings which will take place on 22-23 October in Malaysia.