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NEC calls for day off to let workers vote

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Employees leave a garment factory in Phnom Penh’s Meanchey district after work. The NEC urged employers to give time off work for workers to vote during June elections. Pha Lina

NEC calls for day off to let workers vote

The National Election Committee (NEC) yesterday urged factory owners and other employers to provide adequate time off for workers who need to travel to vote in the June 4 commune elections, though a Labour Ministry spokesman said most had the day off already.

The elections fall on a Sunday – the day most factories close – but many who registered to vote did so in their hometowns, some of which are hundreds of kilometres from Phnom Penh.

“To allow people to exercise their legal rights, the NEC would like to appeal to the owners of all enterprises, companies, factories, hotels, restaurants and institutions in Cambodia to make it convenient for employees and workers to travel to vote on Sunday, June 4, 2017, at their communes where they have registered names,” NEC President Sik Bun Hok wrote.

Some 700,000 Cambodians work in factories, and while workers were allowed to enrol to vote in the communes where they rent rooms and work, many chose to enrol in their hometowns. The opposition has long promised garment workers higher minimum wages, and observers have said the party needs their votes in rural areas that are CPP strongholds.

On Tuesday, the Free Trade Union and the Coalition of Free Trade Union of Women’s Textiles also issued letters urging employers to provide three days of paid leave as well as loans for travel in case some are short of money before payday.

Ath Thorn, president of the Coalition of Cambodian Apparel Workers’ Democratic Union, said yesterday he made similar requests in letters to the NEC and the Labour Ministry.

“The NEC told me the ministry level will not issue the letter to require employers to stop one day before or after” election day, Thorn said. “For those who are working in Phnom Penh and Kampong Speu, never mind, they can vote . . . but for those who are living in . . . provinces more than 100 kilometres from Phnom Penh, it is not possible.”

Opposition spokesman Yim Sovann said the Labour Ministry should release a directive ordering up to three days’ leave. Yet Labour Ministry spokesman Heng Sour seemed to reject the proposal. “June 4 is a Sunday, which is a day off,” Sour said in a message. He declined to comment about voters who registered far from their workplaces, or those who work on Sundays.

Kaing Monika, deputy secretary-general of the Garment Manufacturer’s Association in Cambodia, said he believed factories should not be compelled to offer any extra days off.

“Giving additional days off or not is the prerogative of the government. We cannot interfere with the private business operations and functioning of our members,” Monika said.

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