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Church helps Cambodian workers to tackle harassment

Despite a national labor law, factory workers in Cambodia face abuses, rights groups say

Church helps Cambodian workers to tackle harassment

Workers attend a seminar in Cambodian capital Phnom Penh organized by the Catholic Church on International Labor Day. (Photo: Catholic Cambodia)

Published: May 09, 2022 07:49 AM GMT

Updated: May 10, 2022 05:29 AM GMT

The Catholic Church in Cambodia has been putting its weight behind an awareness campaign to protect factory workers from workplace harassment.

In the latest effort, the workers’ committee of the Apostolic Vicariate of Phnom Penh organized a seminar for 30 workers in capital Phnom Penh on International Labor Day, May 1, reported Catholic Cambodia, the communication wing of the local Church.

Mao Srey Keo, secretary of the committee and coordinator of the workers’ program, said they brought workers together to understand more about workplace harassment and to train them to protect themselves and their co-workers from abusive treatment in factories.  

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He said the committee visits workers in factories every month to know about their grievances and to overcome challenges in their personal and work lives.

Keynote speaker Neou Sovatha, an official from Care Cambodia, an international anti-poverty development group, advised workers to be aware of their legal rights to fight harassment.

Cambodia has a national labor law covering employment contracts, wages, benefits and non-discrimination, according to the International Labor Organization.

"I will encourage my colleagues and tell them: Do not be afraid, we have to struggle. We must dare to solve our problems together"

However, the Borgen Project, a global group battling poverty and hunger, noted that despite the law industrial workers, especially garment laborers, face routine harassment and abuses as well as job insecurity due to fixed-term contracts, gender discrimination, a high-pressure work environment, violations of child labor laws and the government’s busting of labor unions.

Workers who attended the May Day program found it useful.

Ou On, 41, a worker from the Guangdong garment factory, said she learned how to deal with harassment such as sexual abuse in the workplace

"I will encourage my colleagues and tell them: Do not be afraid, we have to struggle. We must dare to solve our problems together," she said.

Seng Sarith, a 28-year-old electrician, said: "I think such a program helps a lot of workers. This program is a nursery to change our mindset about our rights as workers.” 

Mao Srey Keo said the program will continue with meetings at least twice a month, camps and seminars.

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