Workers at the Glad Peer Garment Factory walked off the job Friday, saying security workers were unjustly humiliating them by searching their bodies for stolen clothes.
Six hundred workers struck for the day at the plant in the Dangkor district, said Chea Vichea, president of the Free Trade Union of the Workers of the Kingdom of Cambodia.
Factory officials say the workers are suspected of smuggling clothes out of the factory for resale at local markets. Although female workers are searched by female guards and the male workers by men, the workers say men can see the searches, which violates their privacy.
Keo Sam Ath, a factory worker, said, “We have never seen them find any material on any worker’s body, but they try to check three times a day.” She said factory officials “asked me to unbutton my two top buttons and to lift up my skirt to make sure we are not hiding anything.”
Mom Soveth, police chief for Dangkor district, said the problems started when factory officials found some of the clothing made at the factory for sale at local markets.
“They complained to the police,” he said, adding that he believes only a few employees are involved in the thefts. Officials also complained to the Ministry of Social Affairs and Labor, which said it will set up a meeting with workers, factory representatives and labor officials.
Hout Chanthy, director of the ministry’s inspection department, said workers can expect checks to continue as long as the clothes keep disappearing. “I want the workers to [learn] among themselves to stop taking stuff,” he said. “And also, the factory guards have to learn morality.”
Chea Vannath, the president of the Center for Social Development, suggested that owners bar workers from carrying bags to work, or install monitoring cameras, or check just those they really suspect of stealing.