Workers Strike Over Rights

More than 400 garment workers protested outside the Min­istry of Commerce Thursday, claiming their factory was not pay­ing a minimum wage and was firing workers without cause.

The workers from the Hong Fong Sing factory, on Route 2 in Meanchey district, also said they had been forced to work overtime and were threatened with dismissal if they re­quested time off for illness or to get married.

“We need a salary, not violence or threats.” said Kim Sophea, the workers’ representative.

On Tuesday, factory management fired a supervisor and de­clared he could fire anyone he didn’t like, Kim Sophea said. A lab­or ministry official came to the factory at the workers’ request but the problem remained unresolved, she said.

The fired supervisor, Chan Navy, said managers forced her to sign a resignation and attempted to prevent her from protesting with a $221 payoff.

“I must demonstrate to get my rights,” she said.

Workers said that for the last few months they have received a guaranteed salary of only $0.08 a day. They receive the full salary of $50 monthly (or about $1.66 a day) only if they sew 350 pairs of trousers a day, they said.

Cambodian law sets the minimum wage at $45. Workers may be paid more if they exceed a quota, but they cannot be paid less, said George McLeod, inter­na­tional liaison officer at the Free Trade Union of Workers.

A factory manager said the company only fires workers for cause, but said he could not reveal causes because they are internal factory matters.

“I don’t know why the workers say we threatened them,” said the manager, who spoke on condition of anonymity.

The labor ministry official said he was working on a peaceful resolution for the wage dispute, though he said it could take until December to achieve.

“I promise them I will find a good situation for both the factory and the workers, but they still demonstrate,” said the official, who refused to give his name.

(Additional reporting by Richard Sine)


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