Workers Take Contract Demands to Ministry

About 200 garment workers marched from Phnom Penh’s Wincam garment factory to the Ministry of Labor on Thursday to press their demands for short-term contracts and better benefits.

The Korean-owned factory’s 800-plus workers have been protesting since June 11 to demand that the factory change their long-term contracts to short-term contracts, which award them severance pay if they leave their jobs before their terms are up.

The workers spent about an hour marching to the Labor Ministry, where an official met them outside and agreed to organize a meeting between the workers and the factory owners for today.

“Today we did not get a solution from the ministry, but they told us they would summon the factory to have a meeting at the Ministry of Labor,” said Noy Sothea, one of the protesters.

The workers are also demanding increases to their supplemental monthly pay, including an extra $5 for good attendance and transportation and a doubling of their 1,000 riel (about $0.25) meal allowance when working overtime.

Ou Sok Heng, president of the Free Union Cooperation for Cambodia, which represents the workers, said they were not dropping their demands even though they would be going back to work today following a court order.

“The court issued a letter on June 17 to make the workers go back within 48 hours, so the workers will go back [today],” he said.

Neou Keatty, a compliance officer for Wincam, accused the union of inciting the workers to protest and said they were merely copying a nearby factory that had recently changed its contracts.

“It is an illegal protest because we follow the law,” he said. “They burn their own pot. We hope they will go back to work.”

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