Five Cambodian men who went on strike in South Korea while working in jobs organized by a labor supply company in Phnom Penh were sent home last week, while a sixth is on the run in Seoul, officials said Tuesday.
Meidine Natchear, executive officer of Cambodian Labor Supply Ltd, said the six men were among a group of nine who went on strike on May 4 to demand that they be transferred to another factory where they could work overtime.
Three of the nine promised never to strike again, but the remaining six, You Chhum, Yon Kunthea, Kong Vathanak, Ith Phalla, Hul Poeun and Yim Sinoeun, refused and were ordered to return to Cambodia. Yim Sinoeun escaped before he was sent to the airport, Meidine Natchear said.
“They went to strike because they wanted to be transferred to another factory…. The workers didn’t even want to know the requirements,” she said, referring to rules that migrant workers from Cambodian cannot strike in South Korea.
Before being dispatched, the workers signed an agreement promising to never join a strike or get involved in politics, said Meidine Natchear, adding that this requirement was explained to the workers in Khmer. CLS did not provide contact information for the five men who are now in Cambodia. CLS has filed a complaint with South Korea’s immigration police against Yim Sinoeun, she added.
CLS is currently in the process of preparing 1,050 Cambodian workers for jobs in South Korean, Meidine Natchear said, adding that she suspects the five were part of a sabotage plot by a competing labor supply company in Cambodia.
Chea Mony, president of Free Trade Union of the Workers of Cambodia, said that it was a worker’s right to strike.
“[Managers] cannot set conditions not allowing the workers to hold strikes,” he said.
“Only when a factory abuses workers, workers go on strike,” he said. The FTU is searching for the five workers to find out the reason for the strike.
Ministry of Labor Undersecretary of State Oum Mean said he was unaware of the issue and declined to comment.