Post-New Year Protests in Svay Rieng Decline

Labor strikes in Svay Rieng province cooled down considerably Wednesday, with unions reporting a more than 50 percent drop in striking workers, but more than 4,000 union members continued protesting, according to local officials.

Some of the strikes have been ongoing since workers returned from the Khmer New Year holiday on Friday and Saturday. An estimated 10,000 refused to work on Tuesday, according to union leaders.

Hak Bunthy, provincial labor department director, said the strikes were stifling efforts to broker deals between employers and disgruntled staff in the province’s special economic zones.

“Right now, our officials are negotiating between the factories and representatives of the workers.” Mr. Bunthy said.

“If the unions would respect the law, it would be easier, but Pav Sina’s group does not respect the law, they always insult authorities and police,” he said of the president of the Collective Union of Movement of Workers (CUMW), one of the most prevalent unions in the province.

Mr. Sina claimed Tuesday that union members in Svay Rieng had received threatening visits from the police since the strikes began. The influential Garment Manufacturers Association in Cambodia has lobbied aggressively for the government to take legal action against unions that strike without having exhausted arbitration options, as is required by the Labor Law.

Khat Lot, vice president of CUMW, said that his union would not relent until 41 staff fired from two factories, allegedly dismissed for their union activity, are reinstated. The 41 were fired from Smart Tech and ANJ factories after distributing leaflets urging factory staff to join the failed nationwide strike that was supposed to follow the Khmer New Year holiday.

“The provincial authorities should see them reinstated,” Mr. Lot said, charging that factory bosses and local authorities were working together to silence the unions.

Workers at the Korean-owned Ging Ko garment factory, who joined the strike Tuesday, are protesting against a new manager who has supposedly eliminated a five percent bonus given to staff upon signing new contracts.

Staff at You Li International, Ang-kor Pring and Best Way factories also continued to strike over what they claim are broken promises related to New Year benefits.

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