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Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Factory wage rallies heat up

Workers from Ocean Garment factory burn tyres in front of the company’s factory during a protest
Workers from Ocean Garment factory burn tyres in front of the company’s factory during a protest yesterday demanding to be paid for the period of time the factory was closed. Pha Lina

Factory wage rallies heat up

More than 1,000 workers held a demonstration in front of Ocean Garment factory in the capital yesterday, burning tyres and blocking the road in protest against the management’s refusal to abide by a ruling that workers be paid in full for a one-month closure.

On May 24, Ocean management announced to employees that the factory would close until June 26, and that workers would be paid $15 for the intervening period.

After the Arbitration Council ruled on Wednesday that the factory – which remains closed – must pay employees their full salaries for the month (at least $100 per worker), Ocean wrote in a letter that it would not follow the ruling and intended to pay workers just $50 for that month.

“Because of our anger, we decided to block the street in front of the factory and burn more than 10 tyres on factory grounds,” said Houn Vanna, a representative of workers at the factory in Phnom Penh’s Por Sen Chey district.

Members of Ocean’s management could not be reached for comment yesterday.

Workers plan on broadening their protest of the factory’s recent decree by demonstrating in front of the Ministry of Labour as well as in front of Prime Minister Hun Sen’s home in the capital, Vanna said. Authorities have blocked protesting Ocean employees from marching to the premier’s house on multiple occasions.

Rallies will begin next week, Vanna said, so as not to interfere with today’s procession of the late King Father Norodom Sihanouk’s ashes.

In its notice on Wednesday, Ocean also offered an annual seniority bonus of $100 to employees who have worked at the factory for at least seven months.

But promises of future perks do little for Pen Nary, 43, who has worked at Ocean for more than a decade. She said yesterday that she is in danger of being evicted from her rental home and has had to borrow money just to buy food.

“The house owner gave me two days to come up with rent. If I still do not have money for them, they will not allow me to stay,” Nary told the Post.

“If I’m evicted, I will gather all my possessions, stay in front of the factory and protest until we receive our wages.”

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