Asia workers march for better pay, rights

opinion May 02, 2012 00:00

By Agencies
Manila, Philippines

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May Day moved beyond its roots as an international workers' holiday to a day of international protest yesterday, with rallies throughout Asia demanding wage increases and marches planned across Europe over government-imposed austerity measures.



Thousands of workers protested in the Philippines, Indonesia, Cambodia, Thailand and other Asian nations, with the demand for wage hikes amid soaring oil prices a common theme. They said their take-home pay could not keep up with rising consumer prices, while also calling for lower school fees and expressing a variety of other gripes.

Thousands of workers marched through the streets of Phnom Penh yesterday.
Up to 6,000 workers paraded down the Cambodian capital’s riverfront clutching balloons and holding banners that demanded pay increases to help reduce poverty.
Union members then submitted a petition to the National Assembly calling for better working standards and the creation of a labour court.
“We think wages for private sector employees should be at least US$131 [Bt4,020] a month for it to be possible to live,” said Ath Thorn, president of the Cambodian Labour Confederation.
Buddhist monk Loun Sovath, a prominent human rights activist who was banned from Phnom Penh pagodas last year, marched with the workers, many of whom are employed in the garment sector.
He called on international organisations to promote and protect the rights of workers in Cambodia. “The factory workers, unions and farmers have gathered together to demand their right to live in happiness and justice in Cambodia,” he said.
Labour issues have hit the spotlight in Cambodia in 2012. Three workers were shot during a protest outside a Puma SE supplier in eastern Cambodia in February, while two mass faintings hit a factory supplying sportswear brand Nike in April.