S’ville Workers To Take Protest to the Streets

After a five-day strike and several failed negotiations, more than 600 workers from a Preah Sihanouk province garment factory plan to take to the streets today to demand the reinstatement of their union representative, workers and union leaders said yesterday.

However provincial authorities said yesterday that the workers had been denied permission to march, suggesting that workers could be arrested if they pressed ahead with their plans.

Phin Yoeun, a worker at PY International in Preah Sihanouk City’s Boum commune, said workers would march to the office of the provincial government today to protest against the dismissal of Mao Piseth, a representative of the Rights and Profits of Worker Federation Trade Union?? who was fired on Oct 23.

Factory management claim Mr Piseth was fired after he attempted to fight with a senior manager. Almost 700 workers have been on strike since last Thursday but paused Tuesday to mark Independence Day.

“The company threatened that we would be arrested if we march but we want to test this,” she said.

Sum Sothea, chief of the union’s labor dispute department, said workers were determined to go ahead despite pressure from the authorities.

“Although they don’t have a permission letter, they will do it,” he said.

Mr Sothea said he believed the marchers would head to Leader’s International, another Preah Sihanouk garment factory where a union representative was recently fired.

Provincial governor Sboang Sarath yesterday confirmed he had refused the workers permission to march, although provincial police chief Tak Vantha declined to comment on whether the workers would be arrested if they went ahead with the demonstration.

Yov Khemara, provincial labor department director, said he expected the arbitration council to deliver a judgment on the dispute soon.

“I don’t know how to handle this problem. If they march it will be wrong under the law,” he said.

PY’s chief of administration, Orn Sonchenpisey, said the company had submitted a request to the provincial court for a notice ordering the workers to end the strike or face dismissal. He said the five-day strike had so far cost the factory about $50,000.


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