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Garment workers’ patience wearing thin

Taking part in daily demonstrations outside the shuttered factory where she once worked is beginning to weigh on Bou Narith and her co-workers.

“We are remaining calm and waiting for the union and government officials to find a resolution for us,” Narith, 32, said yesterday. “But our patience is limited, we cannot remain calm forever.”

Government officials this morning will sit down with representatives of employees and a representative from USA Fully Field (Cambodia) Garment factory, which, former employees say, closed their factory without paying wages they owed, said Vong Sovann, deputy secretary general of the Ministry of Labour’s Committee for the Settlement of Strikes and Demonstrations.

The dispute began when 27 workers from USA Garment – including Narith – complained that the factory was sold and the former owners did not pay benefits stipulated in the workers’ contracts.

Dave Welsh, country director for labour rights group Solidarity Center, said the 27 appealed to the Washington-based NGO for help when they were offered about $600 for those on open-ended contracts and $100 for those on unfixed contracts. The money amounts to much less than their full seniority contracts.

Government officials have been unable to track down the new owner, Sovann said.

“The last we heard, the new owner –based in Italy- saw the situation at the factory was not good and returned home,” Sovann said.

The factory –which supplies to Toronto-based Joe Fresh and Los Angeles-based LA Gear – has not yet officially closed, Sovann said, but stopped producing about three months ago.

USA Garment representatives could not be reached yesterday. Officials from Joe Fresh and LA Gear did not respond to questions emailed to them by the Post.

Between seniority bonuses and other benefits, the factory owes 420 workers between $300 and $3,000 each, said Sreang Narith, vice-president of the Cambodia Workers of Economic Union Federation.

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