Garment Workers Continue Striking Over Unpaid Wages

Workers at two factories continued striking Wednesday to demand that their employers pay them half their wages for the days they spent on strike during mass garment sector demonstrations earlier this month.

About 3,000 workers from Quint Major Industrial garment factory in Kandal province stayed away from work and instead held a protest march down National Road 4 to demand that they receive at least half pay for the days they spent striking.

The workers had marched about half a kilometer from the factory toward the local district office before management told them they were willing to negotiate, said Seang Rithy, head of the Cambodian Labor Solidarity Union Federation.

“Our workers demand 50 percent for the days on strike, but the company has not yet responded to our request and they will give an answer [today],” he said. “All the workers pledge not to return if the company does not pay them 50 percent for the days on strike.”

Peter Pan, the factory’s Taiwanese manager, said he hoped to have the dispute resolved by the end of today.

“If some workers [did not] come and they joined the strike outside, of course they will get nothing…but maybe our owners will decide to give them something,” he said. “We hope the meeting [today] will resolve this.”

About 600 striking workers from the Manhattan factory in Kompong Cham were also on the march Wednesday, both to get their wages from the previous strike restored and to protest the suspension of four union representatives, said Chorn Kheang, the factory representative for the Cambodian Alliance of Trade Unions.

He said the workers marched to the offices of the provincial labor department, where government officials arranged for negotiations between the workers and factory management to take place today.

Khem Veasna, the provincial labor department’s deputy director, said he had invited the two sides to meet at his office to try and resolve their dispute.

“We invited some of the workers’ representatives to meet [Wednesday], but the meeting was canceled because they demonstrated outside the office. They had no intention to meet and come only to cause trouble,” said Mr. Veasna, who said he hoped to hold the meeting today.

Hundreds of workers had gone back on strike this week at two Phnom Penh factories as well. On Wednesday, however, workers at each said most of them had—or would soon—return to work for fear of having their wages docked further.

The Labor Ministry’s Arbitration Council is in the process of trying to resolve all four of the labor disputes.

“We are now working on these cases and we will need at least 20 days to make a decision,” said Sok Lor, the council’s executive director.

The Garment Manufacturers Association in Cambodia has cited the country’s labor law in advising factories not to pay workers any wages for the days they took off to strike. The Labor Ministry says it is urging the factories to pay the workers at least some of their docked wages in hopes of avoiding more strikes.

(Additional reporting by Zsombor Peter)

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