Workers Clash as Talks Stall in Factory Dispute

With negotiations between unions and managers at Phnom Penh’s Quantum Clothing factory stalled, thousands of striking workers Thursday clashed with other employees attempting to enter the plant.

About 3,000 workers at the British-owned factory in Pur Senchey district went on strike on February 19 to protest against a provision in the government’s January minimum wage increase that excludes workers already making more than $128 from receiving a guaranteed salary hike.

On Wednesday, workers filed a complaint with local police against their bosses, accusing them of attacking two employees during a protest outside the factory earlier in the day.

Touch Soeu, vice president of the Free Trade Union, said scuffles between protesting workers and strikebreakers broke out Thursday morning.

“This morning, there was a confrontation between the workers…. They began fighting and pushing each other, but no one was injured,” she said.

Ms. Soeu said that while workers were fighting outside the factory, union representatives met with factory managers at the Labor Ministry to discuss their demands, but that the factory did not give in.

“If the workers do not get better solutions, then they will not go back to work,” she added.

Van Kakada, Quantum’s human resources manager, said the factory could not afford to pay the workers what they were asking for, adding that she was concerned about the potential for further violence.

“We are worried about these confrontations between workers. Their clashes might lead to violence,” Ms. Kakada said.

“They have the right to strike, but they should not block or prevent other workers who want to work,” she added.

Choam Chao commune police chief Theng Kosal said Thursday that both union and factory representatives were called into his office over Wednesday’s confrontation, but that no arrests were made.

“Both sides came to answer questions about the dispute, but we did not arrest anyone because it was only a minor clash,” he said.

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