Thousands Strike Over Pay at Kompong Cham Garment Factory

More than 5,000 workers from a footwear factory in Kompong Cham province went on strike Monday, calling on factory management to increase their benefits.

The lively crowd rallied outside the Taiwanese-owned Juhui Footwear factory in Choeung Prey district, dancing to music pumped out of loudspeakers as some 60 military and district police officers looked on.

Workers from the Xin Fang Garment factory gather in front of the Ministry of Labor in Phnom Penh on Monday. (Holly Robertson/The Cambodia Daily)
Workers from the Xin Fang Garment factory gather in front of the Ministry of Labor in Phnom Penh on Monday. (Holly Robertson/The Cambodia Daily)

Led by the Coalition of Cambodian Apparel Workers Democratic Union (CCAWDU), the workers brought a list of 15 demands, including a $1 daily lunch allowance, skilled-worker payments and 2,000 riel ($0.50) for every hour of overtime.

The protest followed the Arbitration Council’s rejection of a similar list of 11 demands in a ruling handed down on August 12.

Mom Sarem, a representative of CCAWDU in the factory, said she informed authorities on August 25 of the workers’ intention to hold a demonstration, after management failed to enter into discussions over the new list of demands.

“The workers will stop striking if their demands receive a response from the factory,” she said.

Teng Sambath, Juhui Footwear’s director of administration, said factory management met last night to discuss the strike.

“We got the request from the unionist, and we currently are considering it,” he said.

The provincial labor department is set to mediate negotiations between both sides today.

In a separate protest Monday, also led by CCAWDU, about 300 workers from the Taiwanese-owned Xin Fang Garment factory marched to the Ministry of Labor, calling for authorities to intervene in their dispute.

The group traveled roughly 10 km from the factory in Phnom Penh’s Pur Senchey district to the ministry on Russian Boulevard, where 15 worker representatives were invited inside to meet with officials. However, no resolution was reached.

The Xin Fang workers have been striking since August 18 over a list of 19 demands, including a lunch allowance, benefits for pregnant women and new mothers, a $3 bonus for working on holidays and a $15-per-month housing allowance.

Two days after their initial walk-out, the workers also began calling for the reinstatement of union activists Suth Chanthou and Chhen Sovanna, both representatives of CCAWDU in the factory, after the pair—who founded the union branch—were fired.

The factory claims the women had completed their contracts.

Vong Thavin, administrative director of Xin Fang, said the factory could not respond to workers’ demands until September 12, when the company’s directors return to Cambodia.

“I do not have the ability to resolve this problem,” he said. “We are waiting for the directors to arrive first.”

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