Garment workers are trying to prevent large pay cuts. At the same time building workers have gone on strike in support of sacked colleagues.
The garment workers are threatening strikes in reaction to governement proposals to change the law that compels employers to pay double wages for night work. By cutting this premium by 70% the Prime Minister, Hun Sen, claims he will be able to create tens of thousands of new jobs. The industry is currently responsible for US$2.3bn worth of exports yearly, almost 80% of the total.
The government plans will affect other industries if they can be succesfully applied here. The 70000-strong Free Trade Union of Workers of the Kingdom of Cambodia (FTUWKC) has threatened strike action. Currently only 10000 out of some 300000 workers work at night, with the Garment Manufacturers Association of Cambodia claiming that night-workers are too expensive. The legislation is clearly an attempt by the government to normalise night work enabling factories to run 24 hours a day. With the minimum monthly wage set at $50 and union members estimating monthly living costs at $57, it is easy to see that workers will be rapidly forced into night work.
Last year there was a large increase in labour disputes and an increase in the number of disputes that led to strikes. For almost 80% of strikes the reason given was the refusal of management to respect employment laws.
In the Naga resort, near the capital Phnom Penh, workers building a new casino have gone on strike, calling for the reinstatement of 36 carpenters who were fired on Sunday. Management is denying that the workers were fired, claiming that the work they had been contracted to do was finished.
The workers, employed by China Central Asia Group, are also angered by salary cuts, one worker said there had been a pay cut from 14000 riels to 8000 per day (£1.76 to £1). Workers also demand that conditions be improved at the site.
One of the workers claimed that management was deliberately pressuring unionised workers to force them to quit. Mœun Tola, the President of the National Building Workers union claimed that the sacked workers were not on the site due to fear of reprisals. Workers and organisers have been reported rising intimidation i recent years and three union leaders have been murdered, with pro-government forces being blamed.
A Cambodian journalist, Keo Nimol, has gone into hiding after Prime Minister Hun Sen called him "insolent" and "rude" during a radio broadcast. It is claimed that after the broadcast Mr Sen asked for personal information on Mr Nimol. During the interview Mr Nimol had tried to ask Mr Sen if rumours of a rift between the two parties in the government coalition were true.