Workers Strike Over Sacking of Unionists

About 500 workers who have been on strike at a Chinese-owned footwear factory in Phnom Penh for the past two weeks protested in front of the Ministry of Labor yesterday asking for the government’s help in resolving the dispute.

On September 15, more than 1,000 employees walked out of Jian Le Footwear factory in solidarity with Heng Sihoeun, a National Trade Union Coalition (NTUC) representative who was fired following a change of ownership in August.

Protesters delivered a petition to a Ministry of Labor official calling for the reinstatement of Mr. Sihoeun and severance pay for workers, who were informed last month that the factory was changing its name after being sold to new owners.

“The factory was sold to another company and the name changed. However, they tried to hide this information from the workers so that they wouldn’t need to pay the workers’ severance,” NUTC president Far Saly said.

He added that the Ministry of Labor agreed Monday afternoon to call both factory and union representatives for a meeting this week.

“If there are no results after the negotiations on Wednesday, we will deliver the petition to the National Assembly and ask [assembly president] Samdech Heng Samrin to intervene,” Mr. Saly said.

In a separate case, more than 1,500 workers at the Chinese-owned Y & W factory in Phnom Penh went on strike Monday morning, also demanding the reinstatement of sacked union workers along with better pay and working conditions, according to union leaders.

Ek Chan Pheakdey and Suong Samnang, representatives of the Khmer Union Federation of Workers Spirit at the factory, were fired before the Pchum Ben holiday for mobilizing workers to strike, according to Neak Saron, a representative of the union who led a protest outside the factory following Monday’s walkout.

Workers are also calling for a $1 daily lunch stipend, a $15 monthly travel and housing bonus and a $15 monthly attendance bonus.

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