Workers Call for Fired Colleagues to Be Reinstated

Hundreds of garment workers protested outside the Vattanac Industrial Park 2 in Phnom Penh’s Dangkao district on Tuesday, calling for the reinstatement of 11 workers they claim were unfairly dismissed from their jobs at the Chinese-owned Dongdu Textile factory after they set up a union.

Negotiations between worker representatives, factory management and Labor Ministry officials stalled at the factory in Kraing Pongro commune, workers and company officials said, after Dongdu, which produces clothes for the Australian retailer Bonds, refused to reinstate the workers.

“After one hour of negotiations, the company strongly refused to accept the 11 workers back, since the factory accused them of inciting and threatening workers to protest,” said Nguon Piseth, a representative from the Cambodian Worker Labor Union Development, the union the workers established.

“They are discriminating against our union, since our union protected and helped the workers while the factory intimidated and threatened them and forced workers to work extra hours, putting police, military police and security guards in the factory to threaten and intimidate representatives,” Mr. Piseth said.

The workers are also petitioning for help from other garment factory unions in their fight against Dongdu.

Rocky Chhay, Dongdu’s vice-general manager, said reinstating the 11 union representatives is out of the question “since they incited the workers” to demand his removal from his position.

“Although there were many workers protesting, we still had about between 400 to 500 workers working in the factory. The protest impacts our business and makes our employers lose confidence,” Mr. Chhay added.

One of the fired union representatives, 33-year-old Mom Sokmean, said he was fired for simply trying to establish a new union in the factory.

“They removed me because we have created the union and we have helped and protected workers from intimidation and force in the factory,” he said.

“We have enough evidence to show that we are a legal union, recognized by the Ministry of Labor, but the factory did not accept us,” he said.

Another worker, 27-year-old Seng Rithy, said workers were treated like prisoners.

“They forced us to work overtime and work early, and they put military police, police and security in the factory to keep track of us,” he said.

The strikers dispersed from the front of the factory at noon Tuesday, but are scheduled to continue their protest Wednesday.

(Additional reporting by Lauren Crothers)

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