Union Official Arrested for ‘Inciting’ Workers

A union activist was arrested Monday and accused of inciting striking garment factory workers to block National Road 1 in Svay Rieng province, according to authorities and the union’s president. It follows a spate of similar arrests of at least nine union leaders—all since released—in May.

Tuon Saren, a worker representative at You Li garment factory in Bavet City, who has been leading 800 workers in industrial action since last Monday, was Monday arrested by local police and released without charge.

Pav Sina, the president of the Collective Union of Movement of Workers, said Mr. Saren was apprehended by police shortly after workers ended a blockade of the highway.

“That is a violation of his rights when he worked only to protect the workers,” Mr. Sina said.

The workers have been calling for on-site medical care, an additional $10 per month for 18 months for women workers who give birth, more fans to cool the factory and improved toilet facilities.

Mr. Sina said the factory had agreed to all of the union’s demands except for bonuses for workers who exceed production targets and an extra $5 per month for staff with special skills in using machinery.

Keo Sotha, provincial chief of the minor crimes police, said the union was responsible for the workers’ decision to block the road.

“We arrested [Mr. Saren] because he incited the workers to block National Road 1 and this has an effect on other businesses,” he said, adding that Mr. Saren received an “education” from police and was told to stop similar protests from happening again.

Mr. Saren said the workers decided to block the road on their own because the factory failed to accept all of their demands, and added that the strike and protest would continue today.

Meanwhile, the Yorkmars Garment factory on Monday agreed after a one-day strike by workers to reinstate six Cambodian Labor Solidarity Union Federation members who were fired on Saturday.

Lor Sopheak, deputy chief of the union, said the six members were initially fired from the factory in Phnom Penh’s Pur Senchey district because factory officials did not want another union operating there.

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