600 Strike Over Pay, Firings of Co-Workers

More than 600 garment workers halted work at three Phnom Penh factories Friday, the Free Trade Union of the King­dom of Cam­­bodia said.

At one factory, workers protested the firings of 100 co-workers, while at another union members were striking over minimum monthly salary demands, the union said. In another strike, 400 workers protested the suspension of a union leader.

Chea Vichea, president of the free trade union, said that on Friday hundreds of workers at the South Bay Garment on Veng Sreng High­way de­manded the rehiring of 100 fellow employees who were fired earlier this month for organizing a strike. He said the or­ig­inal strike was meant to de­mand that management pay overtime and stop forcing workers to work longer than normal hours.

A Labor Ministry inspector Friday mediated the standoff between the workers and the management, ordering the man­age­­ment to rehire the workers by Dec 29, said Hout Chanthy, acting director of ministry’s labor inspection department.

At the Grace Sun Garment factory on National Route 2, more than 400 workers protested against management officials who workers said unlawfully sus­pended a union leader for two mon­ths on Thursday. Protesters plan to continue a strike today because negotiations yielded no solution, Chea Vichea said.

Eang Vin, chief administration of the factory, said Sunday that the suspension was legitimate because the employee was suspended after he frequently skip­ped the job because of union activities. The management has pro­mised to pay the worker his $45 minimum salary and a $5 bo­­nus during the suspension. “The factory’s stance is to keep sus­pend­ing him even though workers keep demonstrating,” Eang Vin said.

At the Hong Yuan factory, nearly 100 workers demanded that management pay a $45 minimum monthly salary, the union said. The factory has paid $35 for the last eight months, Chea Vichea said. After negotiating, management agreed to pay the minimum wage, starting Jan 1, he said.

Management at two of the factories could not be reached for comment. South Bay appeared to have changed phone numbers registered with the Garment Manu­facturers Association in Cambodia, and Hong Yuan is not a member of the association.

The strikes are the latest rumblings from an increasingly outspoken labor movement that has successfully wrested concessions from garment industry management during the last year, perhaps the most significant being the increased minimum wage.

(Additional reporting by Kay Kimsong.)



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