At least two female garment workers were injured yesterday after police stepped in to end a weeklong strike at a factory in Phnom Penh’s Sen Sok district, according to union leader Chea Mony.
Mr Mony, president of the Free Trade Union, said that that around 50 police armed with shields and batons confronted workers early yesterday morning.
Around 3,000 workers at the PCCS factory have been on strike since July 21, when one of the factory’s union representatives was suspended, Mr Mony said.
“The workers demand that their union leader be reinstated, but the factory management seems to ignore it,” he said.
District police chief Mak Hong and commune police chief Pen Thol were both quick to deny allegations of heavy-handedness on the part of police.
“Intervention police did not beat the workers, only pushed them into the [factory] compound,” Mr Thol said, adding that police had intervened in order to move the striking workers off the street and back into the factory.
Malis Srei Len, 27, and Ken Sopheap, 27, suffered minor injuries as a result of baton strikes, according to Mr Mony.
Man Channa, the union official whose suspension on July 19 sparked the work stoppage, said factory management recently instituted a policy that required all workers to submit medical certificates to cover absences. She claims she was suspended for protesting the new measure.
Eric Mah, administration and human resources manager at PCCS, insisted that no workers had been hurt in yesterday’s clash. He claimed Ms Channa was suspended for falsifying medical certificates without workers’ knowledge.
“We have submitted all the evidence to the court…. Now we are waiting for the court’s orders,” he said, adding that the court would decide whether to proceed with criminal charges.
Mr Mah said the factory have also applied for a court order that would compel the factory workers to return to work within 48 hours or face dismissal. He expected this order to take effect on July 29.
Ken Loo, secretary-general of the Garment Manufacturers Association in Cambodia, said the factory owners had followed correct procedure throughout the dispute, but could have taken a more conciliatory stance in negotiations with the union.
“In terms of procedure the factory has done nothing wrong, but during any industrial dispute there must be an element of give and take,” he said.