Written by Mom Kunthear
Tuesday, 12 August 2008
The Cambodian People’s Party courted the labour vote by vowing higher wages and better conditions. But will they deliver now that election victory is assured?
G ARMENT workers say they are eagerly awaiting higher wages and better factory conditions promised to them by political parties before last month's general election. But many fear the promised improvements are nothing more than pre-poll hype from politicians hoping to tap into the Kingdom's sizable labour vote.
"I voted for CPP to lead my country because they promised to help the factory workers," said Soun Sokuntheary, 33, the vice-union leader of ASD factory.
"I want the government to keep their promises and I want them to make a labour court, increase factory worker's salaries and enforce the labour law which is currently not respected by employers," she said. "If the CPP doesn't do what they promised I will not vote for them during the next elections."
The ruling Cambodian People's Party (CPP) looks set to clinch a landslide victory, taking 90 of the National Assembly's 123 seats. But Sourn Sokuntheary is now worried they will forget their promise to help workers.
"We are angry at factory owners lack of respect for the Kingdom's labour law and we want the government to help us," she said.
Mam Chanthorn, 28, at Hata factory, is also hoping that the government makes good on its pre-election promises and increases workers' salaries because, like many factory labourers, he finds life difficult on his low wage. "I need US$75 per month because my current salary, $55, is not enough to support my family," he said.
"I have never listened to the government's promises as a promise is only words and I think actions are more important," he added.
Ath Thorn, president of the Coalition of Cambodian Apparel Workers, said that promises made by parties during election campaigns are often not acted upon after the polls.
"The parties just make promises but in reality the new government is the same, and I think that they will take a long time to solve the problems faced by factory workers," Ath Thorn said.
" I voted for the cpp ... because they promised to help the factory workers. "
"The factory workers will probably have to strike or demonstrate before the government makes any of the promised changes."
Others also do not believe that the government will implement any changes, and have decided to quit their jobs and return home to the provinces.
"The leaders have already promised that they would increase our wages many times but they never have," said Han Thanna, 26, who recently left Hantech factory.
"So I have decided to go back to Kampong Cham province to help at my parents' farm."
Cambodia's garment industry employs some 360,000 people, many of whom support extended families in the countryside.