Hundreds of workers who protested Monday outside their shoe factory in Kompong Cham province, claiming that they were forced to work seven-day weeks without overtime and stand in the sun as punishment for absences, returned to work yesterday, officials and workers said.
Mech Meakh, chief of Choeung Prey district’s Soutip commune where the factory is based, said that almost all the 700 workers who protested outside the shoe factory on Monday had returned yesterday.
“Just a small amount [of workers] are not going to work,” he said.
The workers began protesting Monday outside the Lean Ing International shoe factory after 25 workers were allegedly ordered by factory officials to stand outside in the sun for an hour because they had failed to show up to work Sunday.
Suy Sothea, one of the affected workers, said her colleagues went back after factory representatives agreed to meet their demands. “[Factory representatives] said they will not make us stand on a stage out in the sun, and they will not force us to come to work on Sundays,” she said, but added that she was not convinced they would keep their promises.
Meoun Tola, head of the labor program at NGO Community Legal Education Center, said this incident proved that the government was not living up to its responsibilities to prevent worker exploitation.
“When we look into conditions [at the factory], it seems like there is no internal regulation,” he said, adding that by law any firm with more than eight employees has to have internal regulations drafted with the consent of the employees.
“It is surprising to me. Since this company opened here, it seems the [Labor] Ministry has done nothing; no inspection has taken place,” he said.
Adhoc Provincial investigator Phoung Sothea said that even though workers had agreed to return to the factory, the Labor Ministry should still inspect the factory. “They agreed to the [workers’] proposals, but there is no written promise. They should inspect to ensure the workers’ health,” he said.
Hout Chheangly, Choeung Prey district labor office chief, said he did not inspect the factory as that was the responsibility of the Labor Ministry.
Oum Mean, secretary of state at the Labor Ministry, referred questions about the factory to provincial officials. Provincial labor department officials were unavailable yesterday.
Mr Chheangly said he could not recall the factory’s name, but workers’ identity badges display the name ‘Lean Ing International’ written in Khmer. Mr Chheangly claimed he has asked factory representatives to erect a sign bearing the factory name, but that he was told the sign was not ready yet.