The Garment Manufacturers Association in Cambodia (GMAC) has warned that increasing industrial action is harming the investment climate as the threat of the Kingdom losing access to the EU’s “Everything But Arms” (EBA) agreement looms.
“GMAC, representing more than 600 factories and enterprises, notes with regret that recently there has been an increase in illegal strikes in the garment, footwear and travel goods sector,” said a GMAC statement released on Tuesday.
“These illegal actions led by some ill-intentioned unions negatively impact the investment climate in the sector at a time when we are facing the threat of the withdrawal of EBA by the EU,” GMAC stressed.
It urged all unions and workers to respect the law and related regulations.
Ath Thorn, the president of the Coalition of Cambodian Apparel Workers’ Democratic Union (C.CAWDU), on Wednesday said strike action had indeed been on the rise recently.
But he said this was because employers were not correctly making seniority indemnity payments as instructed by the Ministry of Labour and Vocational Training.
GMAC referred to the strike at the Bowker Garment Factory (Cambodia) Company Limited in Kandal province’s Ang Snuol district since July 10.
It said that despite negotiations taking place, with unresolved issues being sent to the Arbitration Council, the workers continued to strike.
“GMAC condemns all illegal behaviour related to non-procedural strikes that could lead to a loss of confidence from buyers and the loss of benefits for both parties,” it stressed.
Thorn, the C.CAWDU president, blamed the increase in strike action on the incorrect payment of seniority.
He said some workers with long-term work contracts had been told by their employers that they only had short-term agreements.
This meant employers could then pay them as was stated in the short-term contract policy.
“We may request talks with the Ministry of Labour about seniority payment. But for now, workers are not happy because they have not received the seniority payment owed to them as employers have not correctly interpreted the ministry’s instruction,” he said.
Tes Rokhaphal, the deputy secretary-general of the Committee for the Resolution of Strikes at the Ministry of Labour, on Wednesday said cases of industrial action had in general fallen from January to now compared with the same period last year.
However, he said there may have been a recent increase in strike action due to seniority payment disputes.
“Generally strikes do not follow procedure. For example, the recent industrial action at the Bowker Garment Factory. The workers should not have gone on strike over their dispute."
“Both sides need to negotiate and file a case with the Arbitration Council, but they went on strike before the case reached arbitration,” he said.
He urged all workers, unions and employers to negotiate for a solution to their disputes.