Thousands of striking workers on Thursday returned to their jobs at a Kompong Cham shoe factory—only to resume striking after their bosses allegedly told them to choose between their union and the company.
About 5,000 workers from the Taiwanese-owned Juhui Footwear factory in Choeung Prey district went on strike on Monday to demand increased benefits including overtime payments and higher pay for skilled employees.
Mom Sarem, a representative of the Coalition of Cambodian Apparel Workers’ Democratic Union (CCAWDU), which organized the strike, said about 40 percent of the laborers had agreed to return to work while union and factory representatives joined talks mediated by the provincial labor department.
But the situation quickly turned sour when Taiwanese managers at the factory ordered the workers to stand in a row while they admonished them for taking industrial action, Ms. Sarem said.
“We led the workers to work this morning, but the Taiwanese men said: ‘If you all follow the union, please take your money from the union. Do not expect to be able to take money from the factory,’” she said.
Khai Chanthan, a union member, said the managers’ comments incensed him and his fellow workers.
“After that, we decided to walk out of the factory,” he said.
The workers then rejoined a protest outside the footwear plant on National Road 7.
Teng Sambath, the factory’s administrative director, confirmed that the workers had returned to the factory in the morning but rejected claims that management had rebuked them.
“It’s not true,” Mr. Sambath said.
“There is no reason for us to blame the workers, because we want them back at work too.”
Mr. Sambath suggested that the workers had left the facility for more practical reasons.
“The factory believes that the workers came to work and afterward walked out because they have been striking for many days, so there were no vendors to sell them food in front of the factory and not enough trucks to carry them like before,” he said.