Former Garment Workers Hold Protest Outside of Union Office

About 25 former employees of the Chang Sheng Garment factory in Phnom Penh—which was destroyed in a fire last year—protested Sunday outside the offices of the Coalition of Cambodian Apparel Workers’ Democratic Union (CCAWDU), which they accuse of withholding severance packages owed to some 180 workers.

Since a massive fire tore through the Chinese-owned factory in July, killing a Chinese manager, former workers have staged a series of protests demanding their severance pay.

Sorn Prak, secretary-general of the Workers Union Federation, who led Sunday’s protest, said the last such demonstration was held outside the Pur Senchey district factory in October, when those present thumbprinted an agreement brokered by CCAWDU.

The agreement, Mr. Prak said, entitled the workers to $50 severance pay and their last month’s wage, for a total of $150.

He added that the factory also entrusted CCAWDU to distribute the money to more than 600 Chang Sheng workers, but that CCAWDU still had not paid the $150 to about 180 of them.

“CCAWDU must be responsible for the payment because they received the money from the factory owner to pay the workers,” Mr. Prak said.

“We went to the Labor Ministry and asked them to be responsible for payment, but they told us that they are not involved with the money,” he added.

CCAWDU president Ath Thorn said Sunday that the 180 workers who did not receive the $150 settlement are not entitled to the money because they did not thumbprint the agreement in October.

“We are only able to pay $20 for the rest of the workers and they can come anytime to get the money within three years,” Mr. Thorn said, declining to explain why he had not made further efforts to fully remunerate the remaining workers.

Veng Hoeun, 26, who protested outside the CCAWDU offices on Sunday, said she worked for seven years at the Chang Sheng factory and expected CCAWDU to give her the money she is owed.

“I will continue to protest every Sunday to demand my money until CCAWDU finds a solution for me,” she said. “I am not accusing Mr. Ath Thorn of exploiting [workers], but I am grieving, and we gave him many months to find a solution for the workers, but he has ignored our protests.”

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