200 Workers Protest After Factory Blocks Return

About 200 garment workers protested outside the Phnom Penh Municipal Court on Friday after 20 colleagues were turned away when trying to enter the Smart Shirts factory earlier the same morning, union leaders said.

On February 3, about 700 workers from the Stung Meanchey district factory went on strike calling for management to give about 300 senior employees a $28 raise, after the government’s decision to increase the monthly minimum wage to $128 in January excluded workers already making above the floor wage. 

Smart Shirts filed a request to the municipal court on February 23 to issue an injunction against workers to enforce a decision made by the Arbitration Council on February 6 ordering them to return to work.

At the court Friday, union leaders were given a copy of the injunction, signed by Judge Mong Monysor­phea on Tuesday, which orders employees to return to their jobs but rejects the company’s request to ban some workers from entering the factory.

Chin Vanna, a lawyer representing Smart Shirts, is quoted in the injunction saying that 20 workers at the factory have, since February 3, “incited workers to strike and led workers to use violence by throwing stones, beating the gate and destroying some of the property of the company.”

Kem Chan, 32, one of the workers who was not allowed to enter the factory on Friday, denied the accusations.

“The company has accused me of inciting workers and destroying its property. In fact, workers are voluntarily joining the strike and I did not commit what they have accused me of,” he said.

Khin Namhor, deputy head of Cambodian Federation Workers Union, said the company also filed a complaint at the municipal court against his union’s leadership and four workers.

“The company has accused us of inciting workers to strike and of destroying property,” Mr. Namhor said. “But we don’t have any information from court officials.”

Neither company representatives nor court officials could be reached for comment.

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