Prey Veng Workers Protest for Pchum Ben Advance

About 1,000 workers protested outside the Chinese-owned Komchay Mear Trading factory in Prey Veng province on Saturday morning after managers refused to give them a government-mandated salary advance for the Pchum Ben holiday, officials and unionists said on Sunday.

The protest was short-lived, however, ending Saturday afternoon when managers offered the workers 30 percent of their September wages ahead of schedule, following negotiations between the factory and provincial labor officials, according to Sok Siem, a representative for the union that organized the demonstration.

According to Hem Hoeun, director of the provincial labor department, the Ministry of Labor issued an annual directive instructing all factories in the country to furnish their workers with 50 percent of their monthly salaries prior to the Pchum Ben holiday, which runs from today to Wednesday.

“On Saturday, I spoke with managers of the factory and told them they must advance money to employees before the Pchum Ben holiday,” Mr. Hoeun said Sunday.

In Chin, a worker at the factory in Komchay Mear district, said he was not satisfied with the 30 percent advance.

“We are not happy with the 30 percent offer,” he said. “It’s not enough, but we had no choice.”

Laborers at the factory, which produces clothes for U.S. brand Gap, have been striking since September 11 over demands for bonuses and better working   conditions.

On Wednesday, Mr. Siem and Khhun Sokhom, both representatives of the Coalition of Cambodian Apparel Workers’ Democratic Union, were arrested while leading a 3,000-strong demonstration in front of the factory.

The pair was released that afternoon after fellow workers blocked National Road 1 and surrounded the district office in protest of the arrest.

Chan Chhorvon, Komchay Mear Trading’s administrative director, could not be reached Sunday.

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