Garment Workers Vow to Continue Protesting

About 300 workers from the Ocean Garment Factory in Phnom Penh’s Pur Senchey district were again blocked from protesting outside the Labor Ministry Thursday as talks between factory owners and workers reached another deadlock, according to union representatives and authorities.

Production at the factory, which makes clothes for brands including Gap, was suspended between May 26 and June 26 due to subsiding orders. Factory bosses offered workers $15 for the month while workers have been demanding half their salary.

In a rerun of Tuesday’s attempt, workers began marching to the Labor Ministry at about 7:30 a.m. but were blocked about a kilometer from the factory, this time by a second row of police after having broken through the first barrier by following a number of cars and motorbikes that were ushered through.

After another brief standoff with police, the 300 workers returned to the factory where discussions between factory owners and workers reached another impasse.

Unionists were defiant Thursday and vowed to reach the Labor Ministry and Prime Minister Hun Sen’s Cabinet today by vehicles.

“We will take tuk tuks, motorbikes or trucks to visit the Ministry of Labor and the Prime Minister to ask them to intervene and find a solution for us,” said Huon Vanna, a representative from the Collective Union of Movement of Workers.

Mr. Vanna said that he believed the Garment Manufacturers Association of Cambodia (GMAC) is stopping factory bosses agreeing to the workers’ demands.

“The factory seem to agree with us but when GMAC intervened they decided to continue to pay $15 for the suspension,” said Mr. Vanna.

“The workers keep demanding 50 percent of their salary while the factory can only provide $15. We cannot give them more since we will lose money,” said Chin Sophat, an administrator at the factory.

GMAC president Ken Loo denied the charge saying he was in “no position to intervene.”

“If the factory is willing to pay half that is the policy of the factory,” he said.

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