Workers End Blockade, Agree to Negotiations

Workers from Ocean Garment factory on Wednesday ended a blockade of Russian Boulevard after the Ministry of Labor intervened in their dispute with management over unpaid wages.

Hundreds of workers began a second day of protests near Phnom Penh International Airport in Pur Senchey district at 8:30 a.m. but left the road after two hours when union representatives received a letter from the ministry inviting them to attend negotiations Thursday.

A non-binding Arbitration Council ruling handed down last week found that Ocean Garment should pay workers full wages and benefits for the month starting May 26, when production was suspended after brands pulled orders.

Pav Sina, president of the Collective Union of Movement of Workers, said the union Wednesday filed an injunction at the Phnom Penh Municipal Court to prevent the factory owner from selling any equipment until the dispute is resolved.

Ocean Garment has offered $100 to staff employed for more than six months, and $50 to employees who have worked for less than six months, but workers are demanding their full salaries for the official suspension phase as well as additional pay for the rest of the shutdown period.

“Tomorrow my secretary general and other worker representatives will go to negotiate with the factory and the workers will come together to march to the Labor Ministry,” Mr. Sina said.

Sok Lor, the executive director of the Arbitration Council, said Ocean Garment had filed an objection to its ruling within the required eight-day time frame.

“In this case…the trade unions [involved] have yet to become a signatory to the MoU [Memorandum of Understanding] on improving industrial relations in the garment industry, so it’s actually quite important for future cases that trade unions should become part of the MoU…as it provides for binding resolutions on arbitration disputes,” he said.

Vong Sovann, deputy director of the Labor Ministry’s general department of labor conflict, said no consideration would be given to using the factory’s deposit with the ministry to pay out workers until the completion of negotiations.

“It’s not easy for the factory to pay to workers during the suspension time because the factory has too many expenses,” Mr. Sovann said.

(Additional reporting by Holly Robertson)

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