Workers Riot Over Planned Layoffs at Footwear Factory

A dispute over layoffs and severance pay erupted into violence Tuesday at the Ming Da Foot­wear Co Ltd, as hundreds of workers rioted and destroyed vehicles and office equipment.

Keo Bunrith, police official in charge of security for Dangkao district, said the factory in Chaom Chau commune “was 80 percent destroyed.”

It was the second episode of factory violence in Dangkao district this year. In March, rioting workers smashed windows, cut utility lines and overturned cars at Tommy Textile Mfg Co Ltd.

No one was hurt at the Ming Da factory, although three private vehicles were damaged, along with four computers, a fax mach­ine, telephones, a copy machine, an electric typewriter and 400 square meters of glass.

The factory manager could not be reached for comment. Wang Hsin, president of the Cambodia Shoes Industry Association, said that was because rioters had stolen his cellphone, along with Taiwanese passports belonging to office staff.

“Now they are asking for mo­ney before giving them back,” Wang said. “No one was hurt, but people were frightened.”

He declined to comment on  the riot at Ming Da until he had a chance to investigate further. But, he said, “We cannot allow violence to destroy factories.”

“In every factory, 95 percent of the workers are good, but five percent cause problems that [will] mean no jobs for anybody,” Wang said.

Kimchan Samnang, who said he represents the workers, said problems have been brewing at the factory for about a month, due to a falloff in orders. Factory managers wanted to lay off 1,000 of the factory’s 2,300 workers, but the  sides tried to reach a com­­promise in which workers would be paid for four hours of work per week.

On Tuesday morning, about 1,000 workers rallied at the plant, worried that layoffs would be­come permanent and demanding severance pay.

Kimchan Samnang belongs to the Confederation of Trade Un­ions of Workers of the Indepen­dent and Democratic Kingdom of Cambodia, which he said is not yet an official union but represents the factory workers.

“I strongly advised them not to break the rules or turn violent, but they were very angry,” he said

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