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NEWS UPDATES 30 September 2010

Hun Sen calls for ceasefire in labor dispute

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Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen has called for a "win-win solution" to the ongoing garment sector dispute allowing all striking workers to return their jobs and for courts to drop all complaints filed against them by factory owners.

On September 13, tens of thousands of workers staged strikes that were spurred largely by a July decision to set the industry's minimum wage at US$61 per month, far below the $93 that some union leaders had sought.

The strikes were called off September 16, but fresh stoppages broke out the next day in response to reports that about 200 union leaders accused of inciting the original strikes had been suspended.

Kong Athit, secretary general of the Cambodian Labour Confederation, said that nearly 20 factories had filed legal complaints against union leaders and other workers who had participated in the strikes, and that more than 800 workers had been suspended or fired in Phnom Penh, Kandal and Kompong Speu provinces.

Hun Sen said that he had signed documents on Tuesday that "suggest to the court to stop accusing the workers and also the union leaders, and plead with all factories to accept the workers to return to work".

He said a resolution to the dispute would have to come from both workers and employers. "I appeal to both parties, workers and employers. They are the couple which cannot be separated from each other," he said.

In Vanvibol, president of Kandal provincial court, declined to comment on whether legal complaints would be dropped by the court, saying he had not heard Hun Sen's speech.

Chiv Keng, president of Phnom Penh Municipal Court, said that "many of the factories have already allowed employees to return to work", and then hung up on a reporter.

Ken Loo, secretary general of the Garment Manufacturers Association in Cambodia, said it would be up to individual factories to decide whether to withdraw legal complaints against union leaders and workers.

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