Changing Approaches to Old Problems – Sunday, 13.6.2010

Posted on 14 June 2010. Filed under: *Editorial*, Week 668 | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , |

The Mirror, Vol. 14, No. 668

Though the development of labor unions has progressed over the years, there were always also tensions. First, it has to be acknowledged that there will always be tensions, that is: between labor unions on the one side, through which workers express their opinion and negotiate their claims and rights – and the owners of the enterprises where they work. Both sides need each other, and it is always necessary to work towards an equilibrium between both sides and their interests.

In many countries with a market economy system, it is the state that is watching over this balance of power so that it is fair and helps maintain social peace and, if possible, also economic progress in a society. But when one of these sides has the impression that the state does not take a neutral position, but is favoring one side over the other, relations get strained.

The recently passed legislation to restrict public demonstrations by limiting the number of participants to 200, and to designate a place for these people to meet, restricting their public display by marching together, followed by announcements that the Ministry of Labor is drafting a new law on Labor Unions. While there was no general opposition to regulate the role of labor unions by law, it was greeted by suspicion that it is another attempt to control the unions, for example be imposing some mechanisms how they have to report their finances transparently. – It is not publicly known that the government is planning to impose similar regulations on the other side. The Ministry of Labor has indicated that the draft of the law would be made available for discussion in time – again this is not yet seen to come, after the draft anti-corruption law had been kept confidential almost until the time when it was discussed and voted upon.

At the same time where such a move to more regulation by the state is perceived in Cambodia, there are unprecedented movements in China that workers of some international companies are breaking out of the system of the Chinese, state regulated labor unions, where workers have started to act independently – not 200, but close to 20,000 in one place – to claim public attention to their situation.

The Bangkok Post presented an interesting analysis and overview of these developments – and its problems – on 13 June 2010:

On Friday morning, about 17,000 workers at a Honda car parts plant in Zhongshan, China, held a protest march to the factory gates. They were demanding an almost doubling of their wages and the right to form their own labor unions, as opposed to the government controlled national federation of trade unions. This was the third Honda plant hit by a work stoppage in the last two weeks…

It is more that a little ironic that China, a country that in March announced a new certification system for reporters which requires training in Marxist theories, has been seeing increasing incidents of labor groups demonstrating for greater rights.

It is, of course, a basic premise of Marxism that capitalism exploits the working class, who are the true producers of wealth in society.

The events in Zhongshan follow close on the heels of the bad publicity surrounding a spate of suicides at the giant Foxconn Technology group… which employs more than 300,000 workers making iPhones and other electronic devices. Workers at the compound complained that they were driven like robots by the excessively fast assembly line…

The company agreed to a 65% pay increase for workers, which it says will be passed on to the buyers of its electronic goods.

It is encouraging that the company has taken steps to improve the lot of workers, but this coincides with the announcement that the company might move some of its production lines back to Taiwan, if the government there offers enough incentives, especially lowering the minimum wage for hiring foreign laborers.

The awakening of China’s labor force has to be considered a good thing, but striking a balance that allows a much better quality of life for workers, and enough profitability to keep the companies offering foreign direct investment interested will be a challenge for the workers, for the companies, and for the government.

The Mirror had reported recently about a protracted labor conflict – and that the plan of workers to suspend their work for three days, to demand an increase of salaries, and that the employer obey the labor law, is still not canceled.

Such developments may have an influence also on Cambodia. Not only in terms of labor-management relations in Cambodia, but it may also lead to new job opportunities for Cambodian workers abroad – an increasing number of people finding employment and economic returns in other countries: in Malaysia, in South Korea, and increasingly in some Arab countries.

And this at a time – though in a different context – when the Cambodian Watchdog Council is requesting that the number of foreigners living in Cambodia should be made more transparent, and probably more controlled.

Please recommend The Mirror also to your colleagues and friends.

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Civil Society Recognizes that There Are Many Trade Unions of Workers, but They Are Weak – Friday, 13.3.2009

Posted on 16 March 2009. Filed under: Week 603 | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , |

The Mirror, Vol. 13, No. 603

Apologies for the delays in publishing – due to my international travel. I try to catch up as soon as possible.

Norbert Klein

“Phnom Penh: According to a report of the Cambodian Human Rights and Development Association [ADHOC], there are at present more than 1,000 trade unions of workers, including factory trade unions, tourism industry trade unions, construction workers trade unions, and informal economic sector trade unions. However, even though there are many trade unions, their freedom is still limited, they face discrimination from union to union, like threats and restrictions of their freedom of expression.

“The president of the Cambodian Independent Teachers’ Association, Mr. Rong Chhun, said, ‘There are surely many trade unions, but many of them do not have members at garment factories. Nevertheless, the Cambodian Federation of Trade Unions with the Cambodian Free Trade Union of Workers as a member has done a lot of work to demand different, improved working conditions for garment workers, especially also demands for salaries.’

“Mr. Rong Chhun added ‘If all trade unions unite into one, demands by workers of trade unions will be stronger. As for now, there are two kinds of unions, among them only a small number of trade unions work for garment workers, while a large number of trade unions are created just to have names, but there are no members from the factories in those trade unions.’

“A high ranking official of the Garment Manufacturers Association of Cambodia, Mr. Cheat Khemara, said that most disputes in factories happen, because demands of some trade unions are against the labor law, like the rate of major salary changes of garment workers, or disputes erupt when factory owners could not solve problems since the demands are against the law. If garment workers till trust those who provoke them without checking the labor law, both garment workers and owners, their employers, will lose benefits and the production of the garment industry, known to be a major force that made it possible for the Cambodian economy to grow so far, drops also.

“Mr. Khemara went on to say, ‘Activities which are against the law, do not strengthen law enforcement, and are burdened with individual interests that are against the development of the national economy.’

“The president of the Cambodian League for the Promotion and Defense of Human Rights [LICADHO], Ms. Pong Chhiv Kek [also known as Dr. Kek Galabru], said, ‘At present, there are many trade unions of workers, but they do not have much substance.’ She explained that trade unions are not strong, because most of them are not independent, and they are under political influence.

“It should be noted that trade unions are weak because they do not yet have developed mutual solidarity, and sometimes, there is infiltration and fractionalism imported from outside. Also, all demands by trade unions seem not to be strongly focused by factory owners and by the government. As for the freedom of expression as well as to march and to demonstrate on a large scale, these activities are barred.”Deum Ampil, Vol.3, #138, 13.3.2009

Newspapers Appearing on the Newsstand:
Friday, 13 March 2009

Deum Ampil, Vol.3, #138, 13.3.2009

  • Civil Society Recognizes that There Are Many Trade Unions of Workers, but They Are Weak
  • [Former commander-in-chief] Ke Kim Yan Becomes [the tenth] Deputy Prime Minister, and [deputy national military police commander] Chhin Chanpor Becomes Deputy Commander of the Army [after the National Assembly provided a vote of confidence]
  • [Sam Rainsy Party parliamentarian] Son Chhay: An Advisor to [President of National Assembly and Honorary President of the Cambodian People’s Party] Samdech Heng Samrin Used a Weapon to Warn US Embassy Officials [the Phnom Penh police chief, Mr. Touch Naruth, said that this person is identified, he works in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, this case was already been reported to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, because the US Embassy lodged already a complaint]
  • The South Korean President [Mr. Lee Myung-Bak] Plans to Visit Cambodia in 2009
  • Pyongyang Will Launch a Satellite on 8 April 2009

Kampuchea Thmey, Vol.8, #1896, 13.3.2009

  • An Additional Punishment of 16 Years Imprisonment Was Added to Heng Pov, so that His Imprisonment Is Increased to 74 Years and 6 Months; His [five] Accomplices Received Additional 15 Years Imprisonment Each [for conspiracy to murder the commander of the National Military Police, Mr. Sao Sokha – based on an anonymous death threat letter]

Khmer Machas Srok, Vol.3, #363, 13.3.2009

  • Documentary Movie about the Acid Attack on Ms. Tat Marina [known to have had an affair with a high ranking official] Was Shown in Geneva
  • [The big soccer betting company] CamboSix Demands US$12 Million from the Hole-in-Basket Government for Contract Violation [because their contract, valid until 2011, was canceled]

Moneaksekar Khmer, Vol.16, #3710, 13.3.2009

  • Income from Garment Industry Declined by US$180 Million Compared to [January] 2008

Rasmei Kampuchea, Vol.17, #4844, 13.3.2009

  • The National Assembly Provided a Vote of Confidence for Ten New Members of the Royal Government [with 86 votes in favor among 87, and the opposition parties absent]
  • The National Election Committee Affirms Again that Only Four Parties Will Participate in the [District and Provincial/City] Council Elections [the Cambodian People’s Party, Funcinpec, the Norodom Ranariddh Party, and the Sam Rainsy Party]
  • There Are About 10 Mobile Phone Companies and More Than 4 Million Mobile Phones [according the Ministry of Post and Telecommunication]

Sereypheap Thmey, Vol.16, #1671, 13-14.3.2009

  • Opposition Parties Boycott the Meeting of the National Assembly to Conduct a Vote of Confidence to Assign New Members of the Government

Have a look at the last editorial – you can access it directly from the main page of the Mirror.

And please recommend us also to your colleagues and friends.

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