Around 700 workers in Kompong Cham province protested outside a shoe factory yesterday claiming that they are forced to work seven day weeks without pay for overtime and must stand in the sun as punishment if they are absent, officials and factory workers said.
The protest began in Choeung Prey district yesterday morning after 25 workers were allegedly ordered by the factory to stand outside in the sun for an hour because they failed to show up to work on Sunday.
“We were made to stand [in the sun] and raise our arms,” said Oeun Chea, 24 one of the protesters.
“We are not allowed to have a day off, even on Sundays or at the King’s Birthday,” said Yin Sibun, 26, who also works at the factory. She added that if workers were absent for any reason, their pay would be docked as much as $7 per day.
Labor Ministry Secretary of State Oum Mean declined to comment yesterday, saying he was unaware of the protest.
Mech Meakh, chief of Soutip commune, where the factory is located, said the company was treating its workers poorly. “This is degrading treatment of Cambodian people who are trying to earn their living with this job,” he said.
Deputy district governor Seng Sokunthea said the government spoke with factory representatives yesterday on the issue of pay. She said the company had agreed to pay workers overtime and to stop docking their pay or punishing them for absences.
“We talked to the factory representative about the workers’ demands and they have agreed to them,” Ms Sokunthea said. She added that district officials would return to the factory next week to make sure they kept their promises.
Deputy district police Chief Prak Sothoeun said he also met with company representatives yesterday and they agreed to stop forcing workers to stand in the sun as punishment. He added that half of the 700 protesters had already agreed to go back to work.
The human rights organization Adhoc is monitoring the situation, according to provincial Adhoc investigator Phuong Sothea. He said the group will wait to see if the situation improves before decided whether to take any action.
“We will see. If there is no solution we will intervene,” he said.
None of the protesters were able to say who owned the factory yesterday. Ms Sokunthea said the shoe factory was owned by a Chinese company that opened it in 2008.
Workers’ identity badges display the name ‘Lean Ing international,’ written in Khmer. Underneath, the cards bear the motto: “The more you work, the more money you get. The faster you work, the earlier you can go home.”
A woman who identified herself as one of the factory supervisors, but declined to give her name for fear of retribution, confirmed that Lean Ing International did punish workers who are absent by making them stand out in the sun for an hour and by docking their pay.
“I keep telling them; ‘work, work’ all the time. Now all the people under my control hate me,” she said.