After the sudden, unannounced disappearance of their factory’s owner last Friday, more than 400 garment workers at DF Fashion Apparel (Cambodia) in Phnom Penh’s Dangkor district gathered at the factory yesterday, demanding back wages.
The disappearance of the Israeli national who owns DF Fashion – known to employees only as “Mr Mer” – left about 540 workers unemployed and demanding the government gut their former workplace to pay them each between $500 and $600.
“We want the Ministry of Labour to create a committee charged with selling equipment in the factory so that we can use the money to pay workers’ wages and benefits,” said Fa Saly, president of the National Trade Union Confederation (NTUC).
“We wish to give the workers what they are owed without involving the courts.”
On Samol, DF Fashion’s administrative manager, could not be reached for comment yesterday.
Saly sent a letter to the Labour Ministry, asking them to intervene immediately, and ministry officials made a trip to the factory to see protesting workers, Saly said.
Such abandonment of factories – especially in Cambodia’s garment sector – has been a problem for years, the result of a legal system in the Kingdom that does not hold foreign businesspeople accountable for their investments, according to Saly.
However, Vong Sovann, deputy secretary-general of the Labour Ministry’s Committee for the Settlement of Strikes and Demonstrations, yesterday said that ministry officials are looking for the factory’s owner to work out a solution. If they cannot find the employer, Sovann said, his committee will sell the factory and machinery inside for scraps, and use the proceeds to pay workers the money they are owed.
“We had a meeting with the workers’ representative and the union, and they demanded we find a resolution in which they are paid wages and benefits,” Sovann said yesterday. “The workers do not want to sue the employer in court; they want their money. I will try my best to solve this problem as soon as possible, because they want to find new jobs.”
Worker Khiev Chakrya, 27, yesterday said the demand to sell the factory is not out of vindictive sentiment but necessity.
“We do not have money, so we have to sell the equipment and the factory,” Chakrya said.