1,600 Fired Garment Workers Demand Jobs Back After Strike

About 100 garment workers from a factory in Takeo province that supplies German sports brands Puma and Adidas protested in front of the Labor Ministry Wednesday to demand the reinstatement of about 1,600 staff fired last month for striking over inadequate benefits.

The workers from the Hong Sen factory went on strike on October 27 to demand concessions including a monthly transportation allowance of $12, free medical checkups for pregnant workers and a $0.50 lunch allowance, according to a union leader.

Workers from the Hong Sen garment factory in Takeo province protest in front of the Labor Ministry in Phnom Penh on Wednesday. (Siv Channa/The Cambodia Daily)
Workers from the Hong Sen garment factory in Takeo province protest in front of the Labor Ministry in Phnom Penh on Wednesday. (Siv Channa/The Cambodia Daily)

Pav Sina, president of the Collective Union of Movement of Workers and representative of the workers, said that the strikers were ordered back to work after just two days, but were fired when they ignored the order.

“After we had protested for two days, the court issued an injunction calling us back to work but about 1,600 refused to go back to work, and they fired them on the 30th,” Mr. Sina said, adding that the factory had begun registering new workers to replace the 1,600.

“This factory is producing for Puma and Adidas, so we will push those buyers” to meet the workers’ demands, he added. “We came to the ministry because we need the petition we submitted last week to be raised” in discussion.

Sok Dalin, a 35-year-old worker, said the strikers had lodged a petition with the ministry on Friday demanding reinstatement, but had yet to hear back.

“We want the Labor Ministry to check our petition. They have to wake up and solve this. Samdech Hun Sen, when you hear about this, please help us workers. We need to feed our family for our future,” she said.

“The factory never entered into negotiations with us, they just fired us,” Ms. Dalin said.

Representatives of the Hong Sen factory could not be reached but Moeung Virya, director of the provincial labor department, said the factory was within its rights in firing the workers.

“We negotiated a few times but concerning the provision of money, the factory told them they were not able to give much because they were broke, so for transportation they would give them $8 and for lunch only 1,000 riel,” or about $0.25, a day, Mr. Virya said.

“They have the right to fire them, because the workers did not follow the injunction. However, we will try to find a compromise with the factory, because it’s not so easy to find [new] workers,” he said.

Mr. Virya said talks would be held between ministry, factory, and worker representatives at the Labor Ministry sometime today, and that he hoped Mr. Sina’s union would be more cooperative, noting that legally, the factory only has to provide a $7 transportation allowance.

“The factory raised the number to $1 more than the law, so it should be suitable,” he said.

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