Nationwide Garment Factory Strike Fizzles After First Day

What was initially planned as a nationwide garment factory strike involving hundreds of thousands of workers has effectively ended after its first day, with only a few factories reporting work stoppages, according to the two union leaders who called for the strike.

“All workers have gone back to work as normal because they received information that the Ministry of Labor is working to look into workers’ salaries,” said Yaing Sophorn, president of the Cambodian Alliance of Trade Unions.

On Tuesday, six other union leaders pulled out of the planned strike, which was set to begin on Wednesday, claiming that workers were scared that they would not receive their salaries before the Khmer New Year holiday in April.

Ms. Sophorn said that comments made by Labor Minister Ith Sam Heng following an event at Phnom Penh’s Sofitel hotel on Wednesday had convinced workers that the government would reconsider the minimum wage, as unions are demanding.

Mr. Sam Heng told reporters that the government hoped to “reach a compromise that is acceptable for all” regarding the minimum wage.

“Before we make a decision on the minimum wage, we must do it with transparency and discuss all the problems,” Mr. Sam Heng said.

Since an earlier round of minimum wage protests were violently suppressed in January, the government has refused to restart negotiations between workers and employers over a higher minimum wage, which is currently at $100 per month.

The group of eight unions, along with at least eight labor associations, have promised to organize another round of stay-at-home strikes following the Khmer New Year, which begins on April 14.

About 600 workers held an unrelated protest outside the E-Z International Garment factory in Phnom Penh’s Pur Senchey district on Thursday morning demanding that management meet 17 demands.

The demands include a $6 monthly health stipend, a daily $1 meal allowance, a $10 monthly transportation stipend and the construction of additional toilets in the factory.

Touch Sambath, a representative of the workers, said that a meeting with factory managers Thursday yielded no results.

“During the meeting, the factory told us that they cannot provide other benefits since they lost profits…. We doubt that and asked them: ‘Where are your documents to show your losses?’” Mr. Sambath said.

Mr. Sambath said that because factory management failed to offer an acceptable solution to workers, they will march to the Ministry of Labor today to make their grievances heard.

“We will march to the Ministry of Labor tomorrow to ask the ministry to find solution for us,” Mr. Sambath said.

A person who answered the phone number listed for the E-Z factory declined to comment on Thursday’s protest.

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