Ocean Garment Workers On Strike After Factory Halts Operations

About 1,000 workers protested outside Ocean Garment factory in Phnom Penh’s Pur Senchey district on Wednesday to demand compensation for being out of work while the factory suspends its operations for a month due to flagging demand from buyers, a union leader said.

Workers have been protesting since Saturday after the factory announced it would suspend production from Monday until June 26.

Huon Vanna, 32, a factory representative for the Collective Union of Movement of Workers who has worked at Ocean for 13 years, said employees rejected Ocean’s offer to pay them $15 per month while the factory is closed, and are demanding 50 percent of their regular salaries.

“The factory agreed to pay us only $15 per month during the suspension, but we demand the factory to pay us 50 percent of our salary since we cannot use this amount to pay for our living,” he said.

Mr. Vanna said that fewer orders from big brands such as Gap had forced the factory to suspend production.

“The factory said that they did not have orders from certain buyers such as…Gap since February. Therefore they decided to suspend [operations] for one month.”

“If a factory shuts down, they have to pay compensation to us in compliance with the Labor Law before they close down their factory,” Mr. Vanna added.

Ocean Garment’s shutdown comes as the Garment Manufacturers Association in Cambodia warned this week that major brands are slashing orders in the face of sustained labor unrest in the garment sector.

Brands and international unions, in Phnom Penh this week for talks with the government, said the industry could struggle if wage strikes and violence toward workers continue, and one international brand has reportedly cut its orders by 50 percent.

Ocean Garment declined to comment.

In a separate case, about 800 workers went on strike on Tuesday at the Taiwanese-owned Long Bright electronics factory in Svay Rieng province’s Manhattan Special Economic Zone to demand the factory reinstate five fired union representatives, a union representative and police said.

“There were 800 workers who walked out of their factory to demand the factory reinstate their five representatives, whose contracts expired last year,” said Hun Savoan, Bavet City deputy police chief.

Meas Sokna, a representative of the Collective Union of Movement of Workers at Long Bright, said along with the dismissal of representatives in August, workers have been incensed by subsequent firings without reason.

“The factory had fired many workers after they had fired our representatives, while the new representatives do not care about us.”

The factory could not be reached for comment.

[email protected]

© 2014, The Cambodia Daily. All rights reserved No part of this article may be reproduced in print, electronically, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed without written permission.