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Union Threatens Massive Wage Strike

Workers of the Free Trade Union said Monday they would hold a strike from Thursday to Saturday if workers are not given a $5 monthly raise.

The union, Cambodia's largest, voted Sunday to strike against 150 factories to demand for an increase in wages to offset the rising cost of goods, FTU President Chea Mony said.

In a letter to Interior Minister Sar Keng Monday, Chea Mony said the workers planned to strike unless the government resolves the wage hike and works to reduce the price of goods.

The strike will be held whether the Interior Ministry approves or not, Chea Mony said.

Interior Ministry spokesman Lt. Gen. Khieu Sopheak said Cambodia does not have a law to cover strikes, but has one against demonstrations, and he advised the workers to get permission from local authorities, such as the municipality, before demonstrating.

If public security and traffic problems occur during the strike, Khieu Sopheak asked, who will be responsible?

Chuon Momthol, vice president of the Labor Advisory Committee, said Monday he wanted to increase the price of salaries for workers to offset the higher prices, but he said an agreement between the Committee and workers allowing a raise of $50 per month from 2007 to 2010 was still in effect.

The Free Trade Union should submit a request to the Committee for a solution, which would be better than holding a strike, he said.

Ministry of Labor Undersecretary of State Oum Mean said the ministry has advised the workers to submit a request to the Committee already.

The ministry cannot order a raise, he said, because the raise must come from individual factories.

The union should hold an urgent meeting with the Committee to resolve the problem, he said, instead of striking.

Cambodia has approximately 500,000 garment workers, he added, and about 30 unions.