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Arbitration Council Reports Fewer Labor Disputes

Hundreds of Cambodian garment workers in September, 2010, held a strike to demand their monthly salary raise to US 93 dollars from the current $61.

Labor disputes saw a significant drop from 2009 to 2010, officials reported Thursday, due in part to an economic crisis that lowered the number of factories here.

The Arbitration Council, an independent body established to settle labor disputes, has received nearly 1,000 complaints over the last eight years. Cases mostly rose from 31 in 2003 to 180 in 2009. But 2010 saw only 145 cases, the council reported.

Arbitration Council President Kong Phallack said the lower number was due to the closure of factories in the wake of the 2008 crisis.

Of those 145 cases, the council was able to resolve 70 percent, Sok Lor, executive director of the Arbitration Council Foundation, told a forum in Phnom Penh Thursday.

However, Chea Mony, president of the Free Trade Union, said the number of disputes had not fallen, but that more had been solved between factories and unions.

“Many labor dispute cases were solved outside of the Arbitration Council,” he said. About 60 were solved last year between factories and unions, and another 20 were resolved by the Ministry of Labor.

Labor increases have in fact increased year by year, he said.

Ath Thon, president of the Coalition of Cambodian Apparel Workers Democratic Union, said no matter the cases, working conditions were “worse,” especially for short-term contract workers and the barring of workers from unions.