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Workers block SEZ over back wages

Unpaid workers from the shuttered, Turkish-owned Weibo garment factory blocked the entrance to the Phnom Penh Special Economic Zone again yesterday after the heavily indebted firm failed to pay their full salaries this week.

The factory, part of the Istanbul-based Weibo Group, ceased all operations on January 9, the day before December salaries were to be paid. Following protests, Weibo promised to pay the salaries in two equal instalments.

While the first instalment was successfully paid, Weibo failed to pay the second one on Wednesday, prompting about 80 workers to gather at the zone’s entrance yesterday morning, blocking traffic into the facility.

“We are demanding full pay now,” said Prak Sreynich, a 19-year-old garment worker who worked at Weibo for three years and said she was owed roughly $100 by the firm.

The workers, who also claimed to be owed severance pay, may have to keep waiting, however.

Irsat Kanca, the managing director of Weibo Cambodia, said Weibo missed its second instalment because of a lawsuit from a former supplier temporarily blocking the firm from selling off its machinery.

“We have debts of $580,000 to suppliers and $270,000 to the workers,” Kanca said in Weibo’s deserted headquarters.

While Kanca claimed that workers’ severance pay had already been doled out over the past three months, he vowed that their salaries would eventually be paid in full.

“The process will take a maximum two weeks [from now].”

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