Workers Protest After Factory Ignores Arbitrator

About 400 workers protested and burned tires outside the Ocean Garment factory in Phnom Penh’s Pur Senchey district on Thursday after the factory failed to follow an Arbitration Council ruling from Wednesday to give the workers $120 each in furlough pay since the factory suspended operations.

At about 9 a.m., workers set alight 10 tires and blocked the road to the factory for two hours before deciding to delay the protest until Monday, when they plan to march from the factory to the Labor Ministry. 

“I am very angry. I need the money to pay for my house and other things. I have waited for this money from the factory for a very long time,” said Sin Sophoan Narin, 51, an Ocean Garment worker who attended the protest.

“If we don’t burn tires, the institutes involved will continue on living without paying attention to us,” said Khut Maly, another protester. “Just burning [tires] is not enough. We have to march into the city.”

Workers have been holding protests at the factory since Ocean Garment management said last month it would pay workers only $15 after suspending operations on May 26 because of a lack of orders. The Labor Ministry last month sent the case to the Arbitration Council, whose rulings are non-binding, after there was no resolution.

Houn Vanna, an official with the Collective Movement of Union for Workers, said the protest was needed to remind the factory that it was not following the Arbitration Council’s decision.

“This is the first way to remind the factory because they aren’t following the Arbitration Council,” he said.

On Wednesday evening, the council decided that Ocean Garment should pay $120 to each worker who has been with the company for more than a year, according to a letter signed by council president Kong Phalleak.

“The Arbitration Council calls on the factory to give 100 percent of the money since the suspended time from May 26 to June 26,” the letter reads.

Earlier Wednesday, Ocean Garment issued a statement that said it would pay workers who have been employed more than one year only $100 and workers who had been working less than six months $50.

Tith Sophoan, an administrator in Ocean Garment’s human resources office, said the factory had no plans to raise the $100 offer. “The factory will not increase the $100…even if the Arbitration Council issued it,” he said.

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