VC Manpower workers return home

A rights worker said yesterday that employees allegedly held against their will by recruitment firm VC Manpower had been allowed to leave the firm’s training center, and that negotiations would be held over repayment of loans they were given by the company.

But the chairman of the Association of Cambodian Recruitment Agencies, which does not count VC Manpower as a member, denied the workers had ever been detained.

The conflicting reports came after VC Manpower’s general manager, Sen Ly, was charged with illegal detention on Sept 3.

Hoy Pich Sovann, labor project program officer for the Community Legal Education Center, said five workers left a VC Manpower training center in the capital on Tuesday as part of an agreement with CLEC. The workers, all women under 21, returned Wednesday as part of negotiations but then left again.

“They are at their homes now,” said Mr Pich Sovann. “The company asked them to pay the loan…. Now we are waiting to meet the lawyer of the company.”

Mr Pich Sovann said the workers, who had decided not to work as maids in Malaysia, were kept at the training center because they could not repay a loan.

“The company should not put them inside the compound with lock,” he said.

But ACRA Chairman An Bunhak, who was asked to take part in negotiations by VC Manpower, said employees had not been held against their will.

Mr Bunhak said four, rather than five, workers left the training center on Tuesday but added that they still needed to repay their loans, which he said ranged from about $80 to $120.

Government officials who were involved in negotiations could not be reached for comment. Representatives of VC Manpower were also unavailable.

In a statement Wednesday, rights group Adhoc accused both foreign employers and domestic recruitment agencies of abusing the rights of migrant workers. Adhoc claimed that abuses by local firms include “detaining trainees from seeing their families.

A subdecree designed to protect migrant workers is being drafted by the government, said Choub Naruth, deputy director of the Ministry of Interior’s department of manpower and employment. Mr Naruth said the draft was sent last week to the Council of Ministers for review.


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