Factory Agrees to Pay Wages to Former Workers

A South Korean-owned garment factory bowed to union pressure Thursday and agreed to pay its former workers wages they are owed, following a meeting with the Ministry of Labor.

Hundreds of workers at the S.H. International garment factory in Phnom Penh’s Pur Senchey district have been protesting since May 28, claiming that the factory’s South Korean manager had run away.

The workers have been demanding their May salaries and severance pay, and four of them were injured last month when a truck transporting sewing machines out of the factory plowed through their demonstration.

The factory says the manager did not go anywhere, and that the protesting workers are angry because their contracts were not renewed in late May.

The Phnom Penh Municipal Court on Tuesday issued an injunction barring the factory from moving any more of its equipment pending resolution of the conflict. On Thursday, the factory, the workers’ union and Labor Ministry officials came together to negotiate a settlement.

“Both sides reached an agreement today because the factory agreed to pay the workers and the union agreed to stop protesting,” said Vong Sovann, deputy secretary-general of the ministry’s labor conflict department.

Mr. Sovann, who served as a mediator during the meeting, said the factory agreed to pay about 100 workers their outstanding May salaries, along with the severance they are owned, their annual bonuses and an extra $70 each for their trouble. Most of the factory’s other workers had already accepted a lump-sum payout, while about 200 are still employed.

Mum Siek, president of the Khmer Union Federation of Workers Spirit, welcomed the agreement, but said the factory had tried to circumvent the court injunction even as it negotiated.

“The factory tried to transport its equipment many times, but the workers prevented them,” he said.

Khan Sokha, the factory’s import and export manager, who joined Thursday’s meeting, said the extra $70 was provided to the workers out of “pity.”

“We agreed to provide them $70 more because we pity them and we want to finish the problem,” he said.

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