A group of workers at Goldfame Enterprises International Knitters Ltd has filed two new complaints with the Ministry of Labor, claiming that the factory is continuing to block their attempts to form a union and that some government labor officials won’t intervene.
In another development, police Sunday arrested a fifth suspect in connection with a March 25 fire at the factory, which is in Setbo village, Sa’ang district, Kandal province.
Tom Vey, the provincial judicial police chief, said Chin Saroeun, 21, was arrested Sunday as he celebrated the New Year in Svay Rolum village, Sa’ang district. Tom Vey said police are still looking for one more suspect in connection with the case.
Company officials were in Hong Kong Monday and could not be reached for comment. The factory has been the scene of labor unrest for several months, culminating in an illegal strike last month during which a warehouse caught fire.
Workers contend that investors in the Goldfame factory include powerful government and military officials, which makes Ministry of Labor officials reluctant to intervene in labor disputes.
Goldfame officials have declined to identify the investors, but say that Goldfame is not anti-union. The company insists its managers just want their workers to obey the labor law. The first of two complaints filed April 10 says the company announced over its loudspeaker system that workers taking training courses on union organizing would face layoffs.
“During April,” the complaint states, “factory managers have bothered those of us who are candidates for union leadership and who are studying the labor law.”
The complaint contends that the prospective union leaders are singled out for discipline “even if we have done nothing wrong.”
It notes that some union activists have been laid off. “Through these actions, the factory management has shown clearly the intent to destroy union freedom,” the complaint states.
The second complaint, signed by some of the same workers, noted that they have filed complaints about anti-union activities twice since last February at the Kandal provincial office of the Ministry of Labor. But even though labor law specifies action must be taken on complaints within three weeks of filing, the workers say the Kandal labor officials have done nothing.
“Until [the present], the problems of managers exploiting workers, forcing them to work overtime and threatening the spirit of union freedom” have been ignored, the workers say.
The complaint asks ministry officials to order the Kandal officials to do their jobs.