Roughly 3,000 factory workers in Kompong Chhnang province are on strike this week, reviving a dispute that led to clashes with police two months ago, police and union leaders said Wednesday.
Since Monday the workers have been picketing and burning tires outside the Chinese-owned International Garment Im Vee in Kompong Chhnang town, said Morm Nhim, president of the National Independent Federation Textile Union of Cambodia.
The workers demand that the factory rehire five union leaders who were sacked amid management’s accusations that they incited other employees to stop working overtime, she said, adding: “I have no idea when this demonstration will stop.”
A factory manager reached by phone Wednesday defended the firing of the five workers, saying they started trouble among staff.
“We don’t want to fire those workers, but they always make threats to the factory over overtime…. So if those workers were good guys we would not fire them,” said the manager who refused to give his name.
Provincial Police Chief Touch Naruth reported no violence at the protests, except for an incident Tuesday when a band of striking workers hurled stones at about 200 staff who continue to work at the factory. Through Wednesday, no arrests had been made, he said.
“Whatever police have done or are going to do is not for the police’s interest, but for the workers’ interest,” Touch Naruth said.
Morm Nhim said police threatened violence against the protesters but reported no serious incidents.
The protests pick up where they left off in late August, when at least eight workers suffered minor injuries in scuffles with police.
In September the case went to the Arbitration Council—the neutral body set up to handle labor disputes—which called the five workers’ firing unfair and said they should be reinstated. The Council also said the workers’ strike defied legal protocol.