In Wage Protest, Hundreds of Garment Workers Block Road

More than 1,000 garment workers from a factory in Kandal province’s Takhmao City blocked a public road on Wednesday in protest over unpaid wages that have left them struggling to afford food and pay their rents, a union official said.

Employees of the Gawon Apparel factory had not received their wages on May 10, the traditional monthly payday, and gathered on nearby Road 21 in Takhmao commune, said factory worker Ran Bora, a representative of the Cambodian Apparel Workers’ Democratic Union.

Some workers complained of being unable to make payments on loans taken out from microfinance institutions—renowned for high interest rates and late payment charges—and others had problems affording basic necessities and accommodations, Mr. Bora said.

“Workers need money to pay their rent bill and food. That’s why they came out to block the road to demand the factory owner pay their wages,” he said.

Mr. Bora said that workers blocked the road starting at about 7:30 a.m. to alert authorities to their plight, who could then pressure the factory’s owner, South Korean national Cha Kyeong-hee, to pay their wages.

The protest ended at about 2:30 p.m. after Ms. Kyeong-hee came to negotiate with the workers, offering each $50 and promising to pay the remainder of their wages by Saturday evening, an offer the workers accepted, Mr. Bora said.

Kris Chan Tha, a factory supervisor, said that Ms. Kyeong-hee had already offered $20 to each worker on May 12, which had been flatly rejected and led to a small protest that night, which was called off after darkness fell.

“On the 12th, our workers blocked the road for a short time because the company failed to pay April’s salary,” Mr. Chan Tha said.

May Nimith, the factory’s administration director, said on Wednesday that the late payments were due to a cash flow problem and a lack of orders.

“The factory hasn’t shipped the products to the new buyer that recently ordered them yet. That’s why the factory hasn’t received the payment yet,” Mr. Nimith said.

According to the Garment Manufacturers Association in Cambodia, Gawon registered with the government in 2005 and has 1,400 employees in Takhmao.

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