Continued Strikes Lead to Apologies From Union Leaders

Workers at two more factories walked off the job Thursday, prompting union leaders to say they “regret” the work stoppages that they had promised to avert.

“We did make a commitment that the strike would not be held,” said George McLeod, international liaison officer with the Free Trade Union of the Workers of the Kingdom of Cambodia.

“We accept responsibility, and I do regret any production problems” that arise from the work stoppages, he said.

During a labor march on Tuesday, the International Labor Day holiday, union leaders had told the marchers they should report to work as usual and not stage a strike. But thousands of workers walked off the job anyway on Wednesday, slowing production at seven factories around Phnom Penh and angering manufacturers, who said union leaders had broken their promises.

Workers either didn’t get the word or decided to go ahead on their own, McLeod said.

“We had logistical problems in communicating with our members. In the future, we will have to do better.”

About 1,000 workers struck at Sportex Industries Co Ltd at km 6 commune, Russei Keo district. They said their working conditions are onerous, and they are penalized too heavily for ab­sences. They also want the 48-hour workweek reduced by four hours.

Workers marching on Route 5 Thursday said the factory roof is so low it gets too hot inside to work. They also said they want an end to forced overtime and they want to be paid double time for working on holidays.

Por Chhum, km 6 commune chief, attended talks Thursday between factory managers and the striking workers.

He said the two sides discussed 12 issues and reached agreement on nine of them, and that the workers will be back on the job today.

A manager at Sportex confirmed that workers would return to work today, but said he did not know the details of the negotiations. Although the FTU is usually the most active of Cambodia’s six labor unions, workers belonging to the Cambodian Union Fed­eration also ignored their leader’s advice and struck.

About half of the 1,200 workers at Wing Tai Apparel Cambodia Ltd gathered at the National Assembly Thursday, saying that new management at the factory was making their jobs too difficult. They also criticized union leader Chuon Mum Thal for not fighting hard enough for their rights, saying the CUF has docked their pay 1,000 riel per month for union dues without asking permission.

“We have a right to join other unions. Why are we forced to be­long to the CUF?” asked one worker.

Chuon Mum Thal said the workers were misinformed. They had presented him with a list of 17 demands and he had been able to achieve 16 of them through negotiations, he said.

Chuon Mum said he did not approve of their strike and had not gone to the National As­sembly with them because it was “useless.”

(Additional reporting by Jody McPhillips)



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