More than 1,000 garment workers gathered in front of the Grand Tex International garment factory in Meanchey district for the second day in a row Thursday to demand salaries in advance of the Pchum Ben holiday in early October. The workers also demand more freedom to determine their overtime hours.
“I need the money in advance to go home and to give money to my parents to make offerings to the monks,” Yim Sothy, 22, said of the festival to honor the dead. “I can’t go home without the money.”
Grand Tex’s workers normally get their salaries on the 10th of each month.
“We have tried to negotiate with the workers, but we have not been able to reach an agreement,” said Pan Chan Fong, the factory’s administrative director.
This was not the first gathering of the workers of Grand Tex.
They demonstrated in late August to demand a more suitable meeting room for factory workers and union meetings, Pan Chan Fong said. After that demonstration, the administrator said, the factory owner bought them a new table and chairs, but was unable to provide a new meeting room due to a lack of space.
“We try to do our best for the workers, but they never consider the factory’s issues,” Pan Chan Fong said. “We are looking for the room, but when we’ve talked to the workers they got angry and stopped the meeting.”
Pan Chan Fong said that the salary issue can be worked out, but they are at an impasse because the workers will not hold discussions until they get a proper meeting room. He called their tactics “hard-line.”
Phoung Motry, press officer for the Free Trade Union of Cambodia, said the demonstrations harm both the factory and the workers. “The workers’ demonstration is not correct because Pchum Ben is more than a month away,” he said. However, many other garment factories have agreed to allow workers to borrow against their salaries in advance of the festival, he said.
Some workers took part in the demonstration because everyone else was doing it. “When I was eating lunch in front of the factory, I saw a crowd of workers refusing to work unless they got their salaries in advance,” one worker said. “I lost $10 for taking a break without knowing the cause of the demonstration.”