A garment factory that has faced worker unrest for weeks was blockaded by renegade strikers Friday, the company claimed, while a union leader alleged police used violence on peaceful demonstrators.
Although one disgruntled former employee, who claims he was fired unfairly, is still trying to exact concessions from the company, the rest of the workers returned to their jobs Monday.
The company, Luen Thai Garment (Cambodia) Co Ltd, said in a statement the demonstrators would not allow people or vehicles to leave the factory when the workday ended 4 pm Friday. At
5 pm, the people and vehicles were allowed out—except for two trucks hauling shipping containers, the statement said.
The 200 demonstrators stayed through the night, starting bonfires and threatening to throw firebombs, the company said.
Police, called in by the company to protect the factory, started a violent fight with the protesters around midnight, said Morm Nhim, head of the National Independent Federation Textile Union of Cambodia.
Morm Nhim claimed police beat her and injured her face. Company officials denied any violence broke out. An anonymous official from the Garment Manufacturers’ Association of Cambodia, who claimed to have witnessed the incident, supported Luen Thai’s account
Workers have complained to the Ministry of Labor over the past two weeks of improper wage docking, unfair treatment by supervisors, forced overtime, overwork and foul-smelling drinking water.
They claim two firings—of Sou Mloup, a former cleaner, and Lao Chhiv, former head of the factory’s cutting section—were unjustified. Luen Thai says the firings were fair.
Sou Mloup accepted the company’s severance offer Friday, but Lao Chhiv said Sou Mloup only did so because the factory threatened to fire her husband if she did not.
Lao Chhiv has continued to fight to get his job back, with the help of Federation head Morm Nhim, whom the company calls an outside agitator.
The company has portrayed Morm Nhim as an outside agitator, trying to stir up trouble among the company’s workers.
The company claimed that the president of the factory’s registered union, the Free Trade Union, has urged the workers to return to work, while “dismissed troublemaker” Lao Chhiv has sought support from the more militant Federation.