SL Garment Factory, Workers Agree on Terms to End Protest

A monthslong dispute between workers and management at the SL Garment Factory that turned violent last month appeared to come to an end Tuesday after the factory’s administration agreed to accept workers’ demands, a union leader said.

Members of the Coalition of Cambodian Apparel Workers’ Democratic Union (CCAWDU) had made a number of demands of the factory, including the reinstatement of 19 previously fired union representatives and the removal of shareholder Meas Sotha.

“This is a very good decision by the employer…. On the workers’ side, we will keep trying to strengthen our good relationship with the employers and other workers in the factory,” said CCAWDU president Ath Thorn after the conclusion of a three-hour meeting at the Labor Ministry.

“Since the workers tried their best to protest to find a solution, it impacted their working process and the dispute was a huge problem. Therefore, it made the government find a solution for them and there was intervention from other NGOs and buyers, making the factory come to find a solution and make an agreement,” Mr. Thorn added.

Last month, factory bosses were told by the Ministry of Labor to reinstate the workers—fired for their roles in a riot during which machinery was destroyed—or face punitive measures.

Mr. Thorn said that all workers would return to the factory for their normal shifts starting today.

Among the demands accepted by factory management was an agreement that Mr. Sotha, who workers claimed brought armed military police to patrol the factory, would stay out of the day-to-day administration of the factory, according to Mr. Thorn. The factory also agreed to allow workers to continue working three shifts instead of a proposed two.

Workers had also been demanding to be paid in full for the days they spent participating in demonstrations and strikes over the past few months, which the factory had refused to do. Mr. Thorn said an agreement was brokered Tuesday in which garment buyers would pay workers half of their salaries for these days, a total of more than $1 million in wages.

Joseph Kee Leung Lee, the factory’s director, said he did have any details on the meeting and referred questions to factory owner Wong Hon Ming, who could not be reached.

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