Unions Leaders Appeal to the Government not to Cancel Workers’ Seniority and Other Benefits at Layoff  

A garment worker out of work due to the pandemic takes part in the union leaders’ press conference. Photo: CENTRAL.
  • Phoung Vantha
  • August 15, 2020 7:57 AM

According to them, a letter issued by the ministry takes away such benefits stated in the Labor Law 

PHNOM PENH—Union leaders on Aug. 14 launched a "Say No to Workers’ Hunger" campaign to request that the Cambodian government withdraw the Labour Inspection Department Letter No. 295,  according to which employers may choose to cancel workers’ seniority pay for prior years and this year, and only reinstate it in 2021.  

During a press conference in Phnom Penh, the representatives who were speaking on behalf of more than 20 trade unions said that they were launching this online campaign to appeal to the government to reply as they have received no response to the petition they submitted to Prime Minister Hun Sen's cabinet and to the Ministry of Labor and Vocational Training.  

Chhim Sithar, president of NagaWorld’s employee union, said that the ministry's No. 295 letter amounted to an "inhumane act."  

"Because of the interpretation of a letter, this has caused tens of thousands of people to lose their benefits and more will be lost in the future," she said.  

On June 29, Ouk Chanthou, director of the ministry’s Department of Labour Inspection, issued a letter informing factories in the country that, due to the fact that their operations were affected by the pandemic, they did not have to pay “damages” or “prior notice payments” to workers. 

On July 2, the Ministry of Labor announced that seniority payments for this year and previous years do not have to be paid. Employers will have the option to reinstate seniority pay next year if they wish, the ministry said. 

"This interpretation of [Chanthu] is contrary to the new labor law," said Pav Sina, president of the Collective Union of Movement of Workers, at the press conference. When workers lose their jobs due to factory closure, the workers have to get compensated according to the law, not based on a letter, she said. This decision also shows that the government puts employers’ interests before those of employees, Sina added.  

Tens of thousands of factory workers have been laid off as a result of the pandemic. At the press conference, the speakers stressed that these Labor Ministry decisions will cause economic hardship for workers of all sectors as they are struggling to survive. 

Following the union representatives’ press conference, the Labor Ministry issued a letter to the effect that, according to the new Article 91 of the Labor Law, in the event of a decrease in the global production chain or the process leading to bankruptcy, which require the factory to shut down its production line completely or partially, the employer does not have to pay “damages.” The prior notice payments also do not apply in the case of a factory closing due to an employer fleeing the country.

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