Workers at Kompong Chhnang province’s only garment factory have staged a strike, alleging they are underpaid, forced to work unpaid overtime and, in some cases, insulted and beaten by employers.
The strike opened Monday, when workers protested in front of the MV International factory in Kompong Chhnang town and then tried to march on the provincial labor office, officials on both side of the dispute said Tuesday. The strikers were blocked on their march, authorities said.
Workers say the union at the Chinese-owned plant, which employs more than 3,000 workers, was first organized in late August, but the factory fired union leaders within weeks. They also claim they face “critically low” wages, harassment and violence, National Independent Federation of Textile Unions of Cambodia President Mam Nhim said.
“There are a lot of abuses of workers’ rights in that factory,” he said.
Factory officials denied allegations of violence and said the fired union activists were inadequate workers.
“We didn’t fire those workers because they formed a union. Their performances just didn’t reach our standards,” MV International Manager MW Chang said.
The fired activists’ contracts had also run out, Chang said.
“Right up until this moment, I didn’t even know about the union—nobody told me that. We don’t care about the union, we’re just concerned about the workers’ performances,” he said.
Kompong Chhnang Commune Police Chief Phen Pheap said his office has received many complaints about the factory.
Phen Pheap said he asked higher officials to intervene and is still waiting for a response.
“So, far, there has been no solution to solve the workers’ complaints. Maybe [the government] doesn’t believe them,” he said.
Union leaders from Phnom Penh have traveled to the province to help resolve the dispute. Authorities have set up a committee, chaired by provincial officials, to intervene as well, authorities said.
But patience is wearing thin, Mam Nhin said, and the committee hasn’t done anything.
“We’ve waited for so long to see the workers’ problems solved, with no results, so we had to go on strike,” he said.
Kompong Chhnang provincial Governor Sou Phirim downplayed the rift, saying union leaders were relying on the word of inexperienced agitators.
“There could have been some minor abuses, such as insulting the workers and misunderstandings among the workers, but it’s not a critical problem,” Sou Phirim said.
The strike remained unresolved as of Tuesday evening. authorities said.