Security guards clashed yesterday with workers from two SL Garment factories that supply Levi’s, Gap and H&M, as the number of employees protesting exceeded 5,500 – or more than 90 per cent of the staff.
Protester Kim Voeun, 32, said security guards, in the presence of about 300 police and military police officers, had prevented workers congregating outside the SL1 factory in the capital’s Meanchey district.
“They pushed the female workers [on to the street]. I was hit in the stomach. I coughed up blood, and I still have chest pain,” she said.
Workers and the company have been in dispute over conditions since strikes began on May 12.
Long negotiations involving officials from the Ministry of Social Affairs broke down on Tuesday, and an Arbitration Council ruling that ordered the protesters back to work has failed to end the strikes.
Unmet demands include transport and living allowances, an attendance bonus and for legal complaints against union officials to be withdrawn.
Ek Sopheakdey, legal officer for the Coalition of Cambodian Apparel Workers Democratic Union (C.CAWDU), said about 300 armed police and military police patrolled the strike yesterday.
C.CAWDU president Ath Thorn rejected claims the company made on Tuesday that the strike would cause major brands to be concerned about investing in Cambodia.
“I’ve talked with some of these buyers. They say it’s fine, because workers have rights and they’re not asking too much. They will not leave.”
The Garment Manufacturers Association in Cambodia (GMAC) voiced similar concerns about the future of big-brand investment in Cambodia last month.
GMAC urged the government to crack down on the growing number of trade unions that were using “mafia-style” tactics to incite violent and “illegal” strikes.
To contact the reporter on this story: Chhay Channyda at firstname.lastname@example.org