A Phnom Penh garment factory making items for a famous US clothier paid a former worker nearly $3,000 on Monday in compensation for an eye injury, after a representative of the company, GAP Inc, got involved in the case.
According to the Labor Ministry’s report on the case, Hong Kong-owned Gennon Garment Manufacturing agreed to pay victim Huot Sokcheng $593 for medical costs and $2,400 for compensation for damages to her career as a garment worker. The lump-sum payment was calculated based on wages of $10 per month for 20 years. In return, the woman agreed not to ask anything more if her eye gets worse in the future, the report said.
“The case was solved. As requested, she received all the money yesterday,” said Wooi-Keat Foo, a GAP compliance officer who was sent from Singapore to Phnom Penh to investigate the dispute on behalf of GAP’s corporate headquarters in the US city of San Francisco.
According to the Cambodian Labor Organization, Huot Sokcheng injured her left eye in January when she was sewing clothes with a machine. A needle in the machine accidentally broke and impaled her eye, labor officials said.
The factory took her to a private hospital and paid medical expenses for the first three days but refused to pay for additional treatment, officials said. She had to spend another $593 herself, the officials said.
Gennon Garment paid the woman in cash at the Labor Ministry on Monday in front of representatives from the Ministry of Labor, the Cambodian Labor Organization and the GAP representative, officials said.
“I don’t think that money is enough for her loss, but it’s still a victory for us,” said Luos Seyha, administration manager of the Cambodian Labor Organization, which represented Huot Sokcheng. The 29-year-old mother is still on medication, and suffering weak vision and headaches, Luos Seyha said.
Tam Kam Fai, chief accountant of the factory, maintained that the factory did everything by the book. “As we do business in Cambodia, we must follow the Cambodian labor law. We settled the case in accordance with the law,” he said.
However, the manufacturer had not been cooperative with labor activists or the ministry, Cambodian Labor Organization officials maintained Tuesday. The factory had ignored Huot Sokcheng’s request to be paid medical expenses for months, the officials claimed. The Labor Ministry in April ordered Gennon Garment to reimburse all the medical expenses and pay compensation, but the factory did not respond, labor officials said.
Cambodian Labor Organization officials said the case took a positive turn when the Free Trade Union of Workers for the Kingdom of Cambodia sent an
e-mail on the case to a US-based workers rights monitoring group, Global Exchange, early this month. GAP headquarters immediately sent Foo to Cambodia.
“I came here to try to help solve the issue, not pressure the factory or anybody,” Foo said, declining to elaborate.