More than 40 representatives from 21 unions and associations on July 13 submitted a petition to Prime Minister Hun Sen’s cabinet asking that it intervene to urge employers to provide annual seniority indemnity payments to workers for 2019 and 2020.
The move comes after the Labor Ministry failed to respond to a similar petition that 14 unions had jointly submitted to the ministry last month as a result of its decision to allow companies to delay the payments until 2021.
Yang Sophorn, president of the Cambodian Alliance of Trade Unions (CATU), said that 21 unions and associations covering the garment, footwear, tourism, entertainment and construction sectors as well as informal economy, were seeking the prime minister’s cabinet’s help in urging the ministry to review its recent decision to allow companies to delay workers’ seniority indemnity payments.
“Now that the Labor Ministry has allowed employers to delay seniority indemnity payments to workers…it has made their economic situation even worse than before,” Sophorn said.
“Because the Labor Ministry did not come up with a solution, today we came to submit a petition with the cabinet of Samdech [Hun Sen] to help push employers to continue to provide seniority indemnity payments to our workers as in previous years,” she said.
The announcement made by the Labor Ministry on June 2 permits employers in all sectors to delay seniority indemnity payments until 2021 due to the global economic slowdown caused by the Covid-19 pandemic.
The Ministry of Labor established seniority indemnity payments in 2018 as a biannual pay for workers who are on an undetermined duration contract, according to a Labor Ministry prakas. The amount may account for 15 to 30 days wages annually depending on the worker’s industry.
Sophorn said that the government was not doing enough to help workers, pointing to the delay in seniority indemnity payments and the failure to force the owners of shuttered factories to pay workers the full benefits that they are owed.
As of now, workers who have been suspended from their factories receive only $40 from the government and $30 from the factory owners per month, she said. Previously, most factory employees received between $250 and $350 per month.
“Most workers owe money to banks or microfinance institutions, and they also need money to spend on their children’s studies because now that children are studying online, they need a computer or smartphone and they need to pay for WiFi, too,” Sophorn added.
On July 13, Kong Chamroeun, a representative of Hun Sen’s cabinet, accepted the petition from the unions as more than 50 police officers, security guards, and Daun Penh district security officials stood watch near Wat Botum park.
Nin Vannak, a deputy secretary-general of the Committee for the Resolution of Strikes at the Labor Ministry, confirmed that he had received the petition from Hun Sen’s cabinet.
“I received the petition already and the Labor Ministry will prepare a resolution for them,” Vannak said, before declining to comment further.
Ken Loo, secretary-general of the Garment Manufacturers Association in Cambodia, emphasized that the Labor Ministry had only delayed payments until next year, so workers would not be losing out on any benefits.
“We advised any companies that have the ability to pay, please pay normally because if we do not this year, we will pay double in next year,” Loo said. “If any companies do not have the ability [to pay], they can follow the Labor Ministry’s declaration.”
He added that based on his estimate, the majority of factory owners would not be able to pay seniority indemnity benefits this year, but he did not provide a specific number.