Factory Workers Stage Strike After Union Official is Fired

For at least the third time in a single week, Phnom Penh factory workers walked off the job Mon­day, idling a garment factory in Dangkao district and throwing stones at their employers.

The latest strike began Mon­day morning when 1,200 employees of Wear Wel Garment Fac­tory walked off the job over the firing of their union chief, Phong Phannith, whom security would not allow into the factory, union officials said. Workers charge the factory even went so far as to fire Keo Chern, a supervisor who had fa­vored bringing the union activist back into the factory.

The employees are demanding the fired workers be rehired, that company workers be given time for excused absences and that a foreign manager be transferred, said Free Trade Union of the Workers of the Kingdom of Cam­bodia leader Chea Vichea.

Workers are most dissatisfied with the foreign manager, whom they say is rude to employees  and “doesn’t respect Cambodian law,” Chea Vichea said.

Phong Phannith said Monday he met with factory officials over the weekend to discuss workers’ grievances—particularly the controversial manager. During the two-hour meeting Saturday, the management fired him on the spot, but promised to let him into the plant Monday morning to retrieve his personal belongings. When he came to work Monday, guards denied him entry. “I don’t know why they fired me,” Phong Phannith said.

Co-workers began walking off the job when they saw Phong Phannith being denied entry, Chea Vichea said. Some workers lobbed rocks and stones at the factory. No injuries were reported.

Factory officials refused comment Monday, but union activists say the strike remained unsettled Monday afternoon. One labor activist said Monday that May is a particularly busy month for garment factories. Many owners are demanding illegal amounts of overtime, sparking labor disputes.

(Additional reporting by Richard Sine)


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