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Cambodian government must urgently restart dialogue with unions

28 February, 2014At the end of a week of overtime boycotts by garment workers in Cambodia, IndustriALL is urging the Cambodian government to resume negotiations with unions without delay.

“We call upon the government to urgently restart dialogue with the workers’ unions to avoid an escalation of the conflict and a complete breakdown in relations between unions, the government and factory owners," said IndustriALL’s general secretary Jyrki Raina.

The overtime strike, which began on Monday, has had a noticeable impact on the textile sector in Cambodia. The garment workers are demanding the release of 21 protestors arrested during strikes in January which saw four demonstrators shot dead by police.

The strikers also continue to call for an increase in the minimum wage from the current figure of US$100 to US$160 per month.

Despite a constructive meeting with government ministers, global unions and brands on 19 February, IndustriALL is alarmed by the recent turn of events which has seen the government refusing to register new unions until a new trade union law is passed, which might not be until the end of the year.

The government suspension of the freedom of association is in direct contravention of ILO’s Convention 87, ratified by Cambodia, which guarantees that workers and employers, without distinction whatsoever, shall have the right to establish and to join organisations of their own choosing without previous authorisation.

IndustriALL is also deeply disappointed by the intention of the Garment Manufacturers Association in Cambodia (GMAC) to file a US$72 million lawsuit against six leaders of union groups.

Further to the overtime boycott, unions are planning a public forum on International Women’s Day on 8 March in support of better pay for garment workers, 80% of whom are women, and the release of the 21 detainees, who have been denied bail by a Cambodian court of appeal.

A further stay-at-home strike by garment workers is planned for 12 March.

“IndustriALL, the ITUC, ILO and brands continue to work together to resolve the deadlock over the minimum wage and press for the release of the 21 protestors,” said Raina.