Opposition leader Sam Rainsy turned out before the Wing Tai Apparel Factory Monday afternoon in Phnom Penh’s Russei Keo district with a bullhorn and party propaganda, promising to stand by striking garment workers and help mediate a resolution with their boss.
Worker representative Chhoy Kimyen of the Free Trade Union of the Workers’ of the Kingdom of Cambodia said the strike began April 29 when workers demanded that the factory owner, Alan Wan, not interfere with the laborers’ representation.
Chhoy Kimyen also alleged that the former representative for the CPP-aligned Cambodian Union Federation was working for the boss and not workers’ interests.
Another worker listening to Sam Rainsy was optimistic that the opposition president would help resolve the dispute. “We do not need the [CUF] representative because this organization does not take action. We need to change to the good one [Free Trade Union], because they do right for the worker.”
Speaking to the crowd of about 150 from the bed of a pickup truck, Sam Rainsy said that workers should be paid at least $45 a month without having to work overtime.
He also urged the workers to avoid violence but to persist in their demonstrations.
“Tell all of the workers that we need to find a good solution because the minister of Social Affairs is corrupt,” Sam Rainsy said.
When Sam Rainsy, who later took 12 worker representatives to meet with Wan, asked whether the strike would continue today should negotiations fail, most fists shot up to signal affirmation.
Sam Rainsy pledged his continued support to the workers, but asked for patience. “Now it is very difficult when we clash with Hun Sen and other corrupt officials,” he said.
Wan could not be reached Monday. Negotiations apparently continued into the evening Monday.
According to one worker, this strike marks the first labor dispute at Wing Tai Apparel Factory, which was founded in 1995.