Protests Continue at Kompong Cham Factory

About 2,000 workers from the Chinese-owned Juhui Footwear factory in Kompong Cham province began a fresh round of protests on Friday and Saturday over claims that the factory is refusing to rehire unionists who were fired during a strike earlier this month, a provincial official said Sunday.

On September 16, Juhui managers fired some 5,000 workers who refused to abide by a court injunction ordering them to cease protests for benefits and higher wages, and return to work.

But since the Pchum Ben holiday ended on Wednesday, the factory has allowed some 3,000 laborers to return to work. However, members of the Coalition of Cambodian Apparel Workers’ Democratic Union (CCAWDU), which has led the industrial action since September 1, say they have been excluded from the deal because of their union affiliation.

“The factory has rejected the workers who want to work because the factory claims they are members of CCAWDU who joined the strike against the company,” Mom Saren, a union representative at the factory, said Sunday.

“We think the factory has violated the labor law by discriminating against unions. We will not stop protesting until our demands have been met,” she said, adding that the protesters’ only demand now is for their old jobs back.

Cheng Heang, director of the provincial labor department, said factory officials informed him that they would not take back workers who ignored the court order to stop protesting.

Mr. Heang said he was confused by the union’s latest protest and unsure if he could help resolve the dispute.

“I cannot understand it. When the factory called [the protesters] to work after the court injunction, they refused to go back to work, but now, when they lost their job, they are protesting to demand their jobs back,” he said.

Teng Sambath, the administrative director at the factory, could not be reached for comment.

In a separate case in Prey Veng province, about 3,000 workers from the Komchay Mear Trading factory agreed to return to their stations following negotiations on Saturday between representatives of the factory and CCAWDU.

The factory agreed to keep the bathrooms clean and ensure that workers have a proper contract, but rejected the union’s demands for monthly bonuses, according to Sok Siem, a CCAWDU representative.

“All the workers will return to work…following the agreement between both sides,” he said.

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