Cambrew's brewery in Sihanoukville is still producing beer, but an ongoing strike could put its flagship Angkor brand in short supply after the labour dispute forced a suspension of the factory’s warehouse and distribution activities this week.
Chheng Sopheak, the company’s human resources manager, said yesterday that distribution of beer products was unlikely to resume until the labour dispute is resolved. He said of Cambrew’s 1,100 employees – not all of whom were on strike – about 100 work in the warehouse and on packaging and distribution lines.
“When there are suspended operations in that section, it affects the distribution because we lack enough workers to handle it,” he said. “We want to solve the problem as soon as possible to return our operations to normal.”
Cambrew, which is half-owned by the Danish conglomerate Carlsberg, claims its holds a 66 per cent share of the local beer market. Its factory also produces Carlsberg, Bayon, Klang and Black Panther beer products.
Worker protests began last month after the company fired Cambodian warehouse manager Lim Roath. Employees demanded his reinstatement, and that the factory’s Malaysian-Chinese manager be relieved from his position, citing unfair treatment.
Sopheak said the company filed the dispute with the Arbitration Council, which is reviewing the case, and hopes the issue will be resolved soon. However, he declined to reveal how much beer the company has in stock and, if the strike persists, how long before its warehouse runs dry.
Beer distributors in Phnom Penh insisted the strike had not yet affected their supply and that Cambrew products were still flowing to their customers.
“The supply we need is always on time,” said Ly Chong Meng, owner of a beer depot in Takhmao City in Kandal.
Ou Tepphallin, vice-president of Cambodian Food and Service Workers Federation, said that the demands of Cambrew’s striking workers were reasonable, but fell short of fully endorsing the protests as the case heads to arbitration.
“We don’t [want to weigh into this] argument because we know it would negatively affect both employee and employer,” she said, adding that the protesters were willing to return to work once a final decision was made.
“We just want to get justice and suggest the employer treats the workers fairly,” she added.