Workers Say Large Military Police Presence at SL Factory

More than 100 military police officers stood guard outside a garment factory in Phnom Penh’s Meanchey district on Monday and prevented workers from returning to work, employees and local officials said.

Workers from Singaporean-owned SL Garment Factory—which makes clothing for U.S. brands Levi’s and Gap—have been striking for more than a month to demand a lunch sti­pend, the reinstatement of fired union leaders and the firing of company adviser Meas Sotha, who allegedly brought in plainclothes military police officers to guard two SL-owned factories. The strike turned violent Friday, when protesting workers began rioting and damaged factory property.

District governor Kuoch Chamroeun said that the military police were posted outside the company’s two factories to prevent any further clashes.

“Military police are now standing outside [SL Garment’s] two factories to provide security because we are worried about the violence that would happen again,” Mr. Chamroeun said, adding that more than 100 police were present.

Worker Ouch Noeun, 33, said he saw about 100 military police officers outside the factory, while there were many inside the premises as well.

“They stopped people who wanted to work from going inside,” Mr. Noeun said, adding that the factory had posted an announcement outside saying that the company would only be paying the workers half of their wages for September due to the strike.

“We cannot accept this announcement because each worker would receive about $10 a week for the month,” he said, adding that workers should be paid for the entire month they went on strike.

However, Mr. Sotha, the adviser whom workers wish to see fired, said that all the protesters were allowed inside the factory, but were too terrified to work following Friday’s events.

“We allowed all the protesters to get inside the factory, but they were not able to work because a group of workers had threatened to beat them,” Mr. Sotha said. He confirmed that workers’ wages would be cut due to the strike in September, but declined to comment on the military police presence at the factory.

Khieu Savuth, chief of the labor conflict resolution department at the Ministry of Social Affairs, said his ministry will be meeting with the company and union representatives soon to find a solution.

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