Shoe Factory Locks Out Workers One Day After Walkout

A Taiwanese-owned shoe factory in Kompong Cham province locked out its workers on Saturday, a day after workers walked off the job when management allegedly delayed negotiations between the two sides over demands for better benefits.

The roughly 5,000 employees of Juhui Footwear went on strike on September 1 to demand overtime pay and other benefits, then returned on Friday following an injunction from the Kompong Cham Provincial Court ordering them back to work.

But when the factory insisted on pushing back Friday’s scheduled negotiations on the benefits from 1 p.m. to 3 p.m., the workers again walked off the job, said Mom Sarem, the local representative for the Coalition of Cambodian Apparel Workers’ Democratic Union. When the workers tried to go back to work on Saturday, she said, the factory locked them out.

“The workers walked out of the factory because the factory canceled negotiations with the union,” she said. “However, when the workers went back on Saturday, why did the factory close the gate and not let them in?”

Teng Sambath, Juhui’s administrative director, confirmed that the factory had shut down on Saturday but declined to comment on why or for how long it would remain closed.

“I cannot answer or tell you more about this because we are still looking for a solution,” he said.

A statement released by the factory on Saturday blames the lockout on the workers’ decision to leave their stations on Friday.

Provincial labor department director Cheng Heang said the government had appealed to the factory not to shut down but added that the dispute was out of his hands.

“This dispute is beyond our ability to resolve because the case is being processed by the provincial court,” he said. “The factory told us that it wanted to temporarily close on Saturday, but we appealed to them to not close because it would affect both sides. We appeal to the workers to go back on Monday and [we] appeal for the factory’s patience to resume negotiations.”

Ms. Sarem, however, said the workers were going to resume their strike. Khai Chanthorn, an employee at Juhui and a union member, supported the move.

“We will not go to work on Monday and we will continue to strike if the factory does not resume negotiations and provide us with better conditions,” he said.

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