Workers Break Strike Following Settlement

Union leaders for striking garment workers claimed they had been harassed by a gang of thugs affiliated with their factory and the government.

The strike at the 1,200-worker New Orient (Cambodia) Gar­ment Co started Nov 15. A group of thugs stole the strikers’ microphone that day and beat several strikers, said Meas Heurn, president of the factory union.

Worker Hai Sok Heng said the gang beat him and threatened to continue if he stayed in the strike. Factory security guards and police were of little help, he said, so he fled to Kom­pong Speu pro­vince for a few days. “But I am still afraid because they still want to beat me,” he said.

The strike was suspended for four days for the Water Festival and resumed Thursday, when 600 workers gave the National Assembly a list of demands.

Lawyer David Chanaiwa, an attorney for New Orient, said Friday evening the strike had been called off after an agreement was reached between factory management, workers and the Ministry of Labor.

Chanaiwa strongly denied the claims that thugs attacked the workers, saying the allegations of beatings were fabricated and the factory owners were not involved.

Thursday morning, the same gang stopped the workers near the Independence Monument as they walked toward the National Assembly and again stole their microphone, said Chhorn Sokha, president of the Coalition of Cambodia Apparel Workers, the umbrella group for the union.

“They tried to beat us [again]…

but did not succeed because we have a lot of people,” she said.

Chhorn Sokha confirmed Friday that workers and the factory reached an agreement.

The workers handed a list of demands to the National As­sembly, including higher wages, better treatment from Chinese managers, food money and a supply of work masks. Workers are still making only the $45 minimum wage after three years, Meas Heurn said.

(Additional reporting by Lor Chandara and Kevin Doyle)

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