Suspended Workers Demand Back Pay From Garment Firm

More than 500 employees of the shuttered Tack Fat garment factory demonstrated in front of the Labor Ministry and National Assembly yesterday to demand back pay they say they are owed, union leaders said yesterday.

Meas Somphors, president of the Coalition of Cambodian Appar­el Workers Democratic Union, said the government’s labor conflict bu­reau told workers it had invited company officials to its office for a meeting today to seek a resolution.

“They promised us that they in­vited the company party to solve the problem. I believe the company will send someone without enough authority to negotiate with us. We still worry,” Mr Somphors said, adding that if the negotiations failed the bureau will send the case to the Arbitration Council.

On Oct 8, Tack Fat suspended some 1,800 workers’ jobs for two months, during which workers were reportedly to receive $12 a month. The measures led workers to hold pro­tests at Prime Minister Hun Sen’s residence in Takhmau town and at the National Assembly.

The workers seek full pay for the work stoppage—which they claim is illegal—or the termination of their contracts and severance packages if the firm cannot offer them improved contracts for future work.

Oum Mean, secretary of state of the Labor Ministry, said only that the ministry was busy resolving the dispute, adding: “A big problem [takes] time to solve.”

Mom Sophea, 35, a protester who has worked at Tack Fat since 2003, said: “We have food shortages and we need rent mon­ey.”

Catherine Vaillancourt-La­flam­me of the International La­bor Organiza­tion’s Better Factories Cambodia project, said that under Cambodian law a factory may only suspend work for two months with government approval.

“There is no legal requirement to pay workers their wages if a suspension is legal. However, it is common practice in the garment…in­dustries for employers to pay their employees 50 percent of their wages when there is no work to do,” she wrote in an e-mail.

 

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