Garment Workers Block Road, Protest for Higher Wages

There were major traffic delays along Phnom Penh’s Veng Sreng Boulevard in Pur Senchey district Wednesday after about 200 garment workers from the Alim Cambodia Co. Ltd. garment factory formed a gated roadblock and protested for higher wages.

A line of halted container trucks stretched for hundreds of meters in either direction from the protest site from 8 a.m., when the roadblock was set up, until about 2:30 p.m., when it was disassembled because of rain.

Workers from Alim Cambodia Co. Ltd. garment factory protest for higher wages in Phnom Penh's Pur Senchey district Wednesday. (Lauren Crothers/ The Cambodia Daily)
Workers from Alim Cambodia Co. Ltd. garment factory protest for higher wages in Phnom Penh’s Pur Senchey district Wednesday. (Lauren Crothers/ The Cambodia Daily)

“I joined the protest because I want the factory to increase my payment and give me 4,000 riel [about $1] for lunchtime,” said 37-year-old garment worker Chan Socheat.

“They need to increase our salary, since this current money cannot cover my expenses and I need to borrow some from friends or other people when I get sick.”

Another worker, 21-year-old Kim Ratha, said she had been working for the South Korean-owned factory for two years, but took part in the roadblock to force management to “find a solution for us.”

“We want the factory to increase our payment, because they pay us only $89 per month, but they pay the new workers $93—this is not fair for us,” Ms. Ratha said.

“I only have $30 left after payment, because I have to pay for food, housing, electricity and water, and I have to send some money to my family in my homeland.”

The brightly dressed workers, both men and women, set up a stack of loudspeakers from which a deafening array of techno and pop songs were played. A few feet away, they danced in a circle under the shade of an umbrella as their coworkers cheered them on and frustrated truck drivers sat and waited in the shade.

One of the drivers, Heng Vichet, 30, said he worked for a company that transported clothes.

“I am very angry with them, but I cannot do anything to make them stop blocking the road. We can only watch them dancing,” he said.

“They should do demonstrations in front of their factory. They do not understand our problems.”

Ultimately, however, the decision was made to stop protesting when it began to rain, according to Srut Chet, 34, a representative for the Collective Union of Movement of Workers, who said the workers had already been protesting for three days inside the factory, but to no avail.

“We stopped blocking the road and dancing at 2:30 p.m., because it was raining and would have affected the workers and made them sick,” he said, adding that in addition to higher wages, the workers were also demanding the removal of an administrator at the factory.

“We will rent trucks to transport our workers to a demonstration in front of the Ministry of Labor to find a solution tomorrow,” he said.

Factory representatives could not be reached for comment.

(Additional reporting by Lauren Crothers)

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