Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen said Tuesday that the opposition-aligned unions, inciting garment workers to stage strikes for higher wages, must take responsibilities for any future closures of factories.
"The government has worked very hard to attract investors to build factories and has urged manufacturers to increase wages for workers every year," he said during the inauguration of a coal- fired power plant in Preah Sihanouk province.
"We wait and see if any factories close doors due to demonstrations or strikes demanding higher wages," the prime minister said. "When investors close factories, (unemployed) workers should hold protests against those inciting unions and demand those inciters to find jobs for them."
The minimum monthly wage for Cambodian garment workers is 100 U. S. dollars.
"Currently, the wages for our garment workers are higher than those of Laos, Bangladesh, India, Nepal and Myanmar," Hun Sen said.
The prime minister's remarks came after a coalition of 18 opposition-aligned trade unions and associations have incited garment and footwear workers to boycott working overtime since Monday to demand a 160 U.S. dollars minimum wage and the release of 21 detained protesters.
The overtime strike would last until Friday this week, said Pav Sina, president of the Collective Union of Movement of Workers, adding that the unions would continue to lead a stay-at-home strike from March 12 to 19 if the demands are not met.
The garment and shoe industry comprises more than 900 factories employing about 600,000 workers. The sector is the kingdom's largest foreign exchange earner that generated some 5.53 billion U. S. dollars in revenues last year.
Van Sou Ieng, president of the Garment Manufacturers Association of Cambodia, warned Friday that if the trade union group still plans to lead an outlawed strike next month to demand a 160 U.S. dollars wage, about 80 percent of the factories in the country would be closed, while some would be moved to other countries.
Last round of garment worker strikes, which began in late December and early January, had turned violent and left 4 protesters dead and 21 protesters still detained. Since then, the government has temporarily banned all forms of rallies or demonstrations to restore security and public order.