Laid-Off Factory Workers Hope for Pay, Worry About Future

The Luen Thai garment factory closed last week, but about 100 former employees continued to gather this week at the factory’s gates in Phnom Penh’s Me­an­chey district, hoping to receive compensation for their layoff.

Workers were told last month that if they voluntarily resigned, they would receive a month’s pay plus seven day’s compensation, Leo Benitev, Luen Thai human re­sources manager said Monday.

About 1,500 of the factory’s 1,800 workers took the offer, he said.

But the remaining 300 workers who did not resign, including those who gathered in front of the factory on Monday and were scheduled to gather today, are now trying to get the sev­en days’  compensation pay after being officially laid off on Friday.

On Monday, the mostly female workers gathered at the factory’s gates from around 6:30 am, read notices that had been posted to the metal bars, then retreated to the shade of nearby buildings to wait for someone from the factory to come and pay them.

Holding her young son in her arms, Suon Soriya, 32, told of how she started working at the factory two years ago, earning about $45 per month.

With two other children staying with her parents in Kandal province, Suon Soriya was, until re­­cently, able to send some money to pay for their education.

“I miss my children,” she said. “But I cannot have my children here because of the salary.”

Now the future is even more uncertain for Suon Soriya, her family and the 1,800 other Luen Thai workers who are now unemployed.

As the US garment quota ar­rangement with Cambodia is set to expire in less than two mon­ths, some industry insiders be­lieve that many more factory closures and layoffs can be expected.

Living with her husband, son and three other people in a cement room in a building in front of the shuttered factory, Suon Soriya said she can no longer send home money for her children’s education. And while she used to spend 7,000 riel on food each day, she must cut down to 3,000 riel

“I feel hurt,” she said. “But I worry about my children since they may stop their schooling and never finish,” said, sitting in the concrete room which was completely bare except for a wicker bed and a shrine in the corner.

Former employee Khen Srey Touch, 29, who is eight months pregnant, also said she was worried, not just for her future, but for her family.

Khen Srey Touch was able to send about $15 to her parents in Prey Veng province each month, that was until she and her husband lost their jobs at Luen Thai.

“I’m worried about the future,” she said. “I’m am just hoping I get some money.”

 

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