About 300 workers entered their sixth day of strikes yesterday at a bra factory in the capital, which manufactures lingerie supplied to Victoria’s Secret and Valentino, but their hopes of a quick resolution were dashed when a Ministry of Social Affairs official admitted he was clueless as to the taxation issue they were striking over.
Kae Soksitthiny, the ministry adviser tasked with bringing the strike to a peaceful end through mediation between management and workers, said the strikers claimed their employer was withholding up to $9 per month “tax” from their wages, which are $61 per month before bonuses and overtime.
Soksitthiny, however, said he could not resolve the issue because did not know whether the alleged actions of the company were legal or not.
“We just received such information for the first time and are unaware under what circumstances a workers’ salary can be taxed by the employer. Therefore, only the Arbitration Council can provide a ruling on this,” he said.
Chhum Sokhum, 32, one of the workers’ representatives, said the factory was not only cutting as much as $9 from their monthly wage, it was also deducting an additional 200 riel (US$0.05) each time they worked overtime.
“Our base salary is around $60,” she said. “In order to lift it to more than $100 per month, the [workers] have to work overtime every day. We just can’t afford to have money taken out like this,” she said.
Workers were also demanding the company improve other working conditions.
The strikers, who had gathered at a petrol station near the factory in Russey Keo district, were blocked by police as they marched along National Road 5 towards Phnom Penh City Hall and the residence of Prime Minister Hun Sen.
Factory bosses invited five workers’ representatives to negotiate with them, but the workers refused and went home.
To contact the reporter on this story: Khouth Sophak Chakrya at firstname.lastname@example.org