We know that employment need is fast outpacing actual employment in Cambodia, a fact that is not likely to get better given that, according to Vice Prime Minister Sok An, 300,000 new jobseekers are added to the Cambodian industrial reserve army every year. The massive disemployment in Cambodia puts workers at a serious disadvantage as opposed to their employers, who can not only threaten to pull out of Cambodia at the slightest whisper of union activity, or physically attack and even murder unionists, but also exert unbelievable leverage against workers in contract negotiations.
Given the considerable hold the employers already have in Cambodia, the recent attempts to amend article 114 of the Cambodian labor law come as a threat and an insult, if not a surprise. The largest issue at stake seems to be the rate of compensation for non-standard hours, particularly those worked at night. If a daily wage is calculated on the basis of a 100 percent raise during normal business hours, then it is common for workers to demand and receive a higher-than-normal rate for hours worked during non-standard hours. A night-shift employee gives up a considerable amount of her control over the rest of her life, and put her temporally at odds with the vast majority of society. It simply makes sense that such shifts should be paid at a higher rate. This was acknowledged in the original labor law, which instituted a rate of not less than 200% of normal rate.
The proposed Amendment to article 114 drops that rate to 130%. You can imagine what that will do to the work force, which already operates very close to the edge, and must often pay out of pocket for work-related expenses. Hun Sen, who’s been very ill this last week, is for it, of course.
And of course the unions, including the FTUWKC as led by Chea Mony, have threatened strikes if the amendment passes. It seems they have little choice: this is one of the biggest legislative threats to the Cambodian working class yet.