Night Workers Find Payday Can Spell Trouble

Sorn Nov said she was lucky to get away with her paycheck still in hand on the night of Nov 27.

At about 10 pm, Sorn Nov and a friend were walking home after working the night shift at Sheng Heng Garment Company Ltd in Phnom Penh’s Meanchey district.

The 35-year-old mother of two and her friend turned a corner off the main street and started down the dark dirt road leading to their stilt houses when a group of men demanded their paychecks.

Sorn Nov and her friend es­caped.

But people living nearby said the same group stole money from several other women that same night.

“This group always comes along when salaries are given out,” Sorn Nov said Tuesday, adding that she’ll likely have to face the same dilemma next payday.

Many garment factory workers—especially those working night shifts—are being robbed of their paychecks by gangs who know what days they are paid, workers and union representatives said.

On Sunday, about 500 striking workers reached an agreement with management at LA (Cam­bodia) Garment Pte Ltd in Russei Keo district to have their paychecks distributed by 4 pm by the fifth day of each month.

Chhorn Srey Mao, a worker at the factory, said gangs had often preyed on her fellow workers on their payday nights and hoped the daytime payout would prevent such theft.

Workers interviewed at other factories said they wished that their own employers would implement the same policy.

Mey Thida said that her husband, who works with her at Tum Nop Thmey factory in Stung Mean­chey, was also ap­proached and robbed by a gang on Nov 27.

Four men beat him and took $150, his entire month’s salary, she said.

“Now we have to borrow from the neighbors,” said Mey Thida, 21.

“It is dangerous for workers to cash their wages after 4 pm,” said Chea Mony, president of the Free Trade Union Worker of the Kingdom of Cam­bodia.

He added that some thieves even stop the trucks carrying workers home and rob them.

While Sorn Nov said her factory has changed the day it distributes paychecks, workers still have to be careful.

“The workers are alert when they have their salaries, and they try to come home early,” she said.

She added that she would prefer if all workers, even those working night shifts, got their money before 4 pm.

Independent and Democratic Union Federation President Phoung Montry also encouraged workers to stick up for each other.

“Workers should stick in big groups and help each other,” he said. “Don’t run away from your victim friend.”

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