Garment Workers Destroy Factory’s Offices

Authorities said Wednesday they had not yet estimated the full cost of the damage done to a garment factory in Dangkao on Monday after more than 100 angry workers smashed offices at the plant.

Deputy Municipal police chief Hy Prou said Wednesday that police would arrest workers who were involved in the incident only if the Taiwanese-owned Tonga Gar­ments lodged a complaint.

He said police could not act to arrest the workers involved without a complaint because the incident, where workers had used rocks and sticks to smash windows and office equipment, had not happened in a public place.

The workers were protesting over unpaid January wages, Free Trade Union President Chea Mony said. Earlier that month Tonga suspended the workers because of a lack of work and required the workers to sign in at the factory every morning in order to receive 50 percent of their salaries. The workers, however, could not both sign in to receive their reduced salaries and also look for new jobs as garment factories require job applicants to arrive around 7 am, he added.

Cheat Khemara, senior labor officer with the Garment Man­ufac­turers Association of Cam­bodia, said his organization was collecting information about the incident.

He said he had heard that the Taiwanese manager of the factory, whose name he did not know, had not returned to the factory Mon­day to pay wages because of the Chinese New Year.

Tonga representatives could not be reached for comment.

Khiev Savuth, bureau chief of labor conflict for the Ministry of Labor, said Tuesday the ministry had coordinated a deal between the two parties but the workers did not keep up their side.

Chea Mony said that although the workers were not members of his union, he supported their actions.

“What they did was not legal, but we still support them because the bosses always abuse the workers,” he said.

“We do regret that the authorities did not solve the problem and the violence happened.”

GMAC’s Cheat Khemara was more critical of workers violence and he expressed concern that the incident would damage the investment environment here for the already troubled garment sector.

“We looked at the damage—it is brutal,” he said. “They should have been more patient.”

But Deputy Chief of the Labor Dispute Department at the Labor Ministry Kiev Savuth disagreed with that analysis.

“In my opinion it will not affect investment,” he said. “Disputes are a normal part of doing business.”

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