Chinese investment leaders deplored the recent violent demonstration and fire that gutted the Goldfame Enterprises garment factory and vowed to build better relations with their employees Thursday at a news conference.
“Coming across this painful experience, we are learning many more good lessons on how to handle these problems in the future,” said Yum Sui Sang, the chairman of the Chinese Business Association, which represents business leaders from China, Hong Kong and Macau.
Yum said Thursday at the Hotel Inter-Continental that he is instructing investors to find fairer solutions to labor problems.
“We will try to figure out peaceful solutions to the problems, if there are any,” he said.
The conference was held primarily to discuss labor problems in the wake of factory fire on March 24 in Kandal province at the Goldfame Enterprises International Knitters Ltd, which has been the scene of earlier disturbances.
The fire was reportedly set by workers who were upset by poor wages and who accused factory owners of blocking unionization.
Yum said that a lack of understanding and language barriers between employers and employees had caused the problems at Goldfame. He said the poor education level of workers was also a factor.
At the conference, he urged unions and NGOs to educate workers about protesting legally.
Yum blamed the violence on a small group of employees that he said were not representative of the majority.
“Most workers helped to put out the fire and they were sorry for the incident,” he said. No arrests have been made in the fire incident.
Some 4,000 workers were left unemployed after the factory was gutted. Many of the workers said they would return to farming rice.
Yum said Thursday that the Goldfame factory owners would rebuild the factory and return it to operation by the end of April.
Most of the clients of Goldfame are from Europe and the US, such as The Limited/Structure, Target and Mervyn’s, he said. Yum said the clients didn’t react “too negatively.”
According to Yun, the factory has yet to miss a shipment. The factory collected a $14 million profit from the sale of sweaters.
Earlier, the workers filed complaints with the Ministry of Labor and in early March they asked garment unions in the US to complain to US buyers about the allegations of union-busting.