Workers Blockade Highway in Protest of Pay and Conditions

Thousands of workers from the Grand Twins International garment factory—one of two companies listed on the Cambodia Stock Exchange (CSX)—blocked a major highway leading out of Phnom Penh on Friday morning to protest for better working conditions and higher wages.

More than 5,000 workers at the factory have been striking since Monday to call for management to address 16 demands including a monthly $15 accommodation allowance and an end to forced overtime.

Traffic backs up as some 2,500 workers from the Grand Twins garment factory blockade National Road 4 in Phnom Penh's Pur Senchey district. (Siv Channa/The Cambodia Daily)
Traffic backs up as some 2,500 workers from the Grand Twins garment factory blockade National Road 4 in Phnom Penh’s Pur Senchey district. (Siv Channa/The Cambodia Daily)

At least 2,500 workers—union officials said numbers were much higher—gathered on National Road 4, near Grand Twins’ factory in Pur Senchey district, at about 9 a.m. Friday for a two-hour demonstration that caused traffic jams in both directions.

Worker Phom Chantheng, 34, said she was unhappy with conditions in the factory, which produces clothing for brands including Adidas. She said the factory had changed its name from QMI to Grand Twins in 2006, which left many long-term staff worried about losing their seniority, along with the related benefits and potential severance pay.

“If the factory doesn’t solve the problems, we will keep going on strike until we can get a solution,” she said.

After about two hours, the protesting workers agreed to leave the highway for their representatives to attend negotiations with the factory.

However, Nuon Ny, president of Trade Union Cambodia Support Workers, said the meeting was called off after the two sides failed to agree on where to meet.

“We will ask for invention from the Garment Manufacturers Association in Cambodia (GMAC), the buyers and the Labor Minister,” he said.

Mr. Ny said his union had stepped in to the dispute on September 1 at the request of workers after a factory-approved union failed to address their complaints.

A letter to the factory requesting a meeting to discuss their demands went unanswered, Mr. Ny said, prompting this week’s industrial action, which was announced to relevant parties on October 13.

Grand Twins could not be reached for comment on Friday, but the company posted a suspension notice to the CSX website on Tuesday.

“GTI would like to announce that there is temporary suspension of the production of GTI since there are workers gathering in front of the factory for the protest,” the notice said.

“Currently, GTI has already taken legal actions with related authorities. Besides, GTI will try to find other solutions to solve the issue as soon as possible,” it continued.

The firm listed on the CSX in June with an opening share price of 9,700 riel (about $2.40). Its share price on Friday was 5,000 riel (about $1.25) at closing.

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