As workers protest in their thousands, the Garment Manufacturers Association in Cambodia (GMAC) this morning strongly urged its member factories to close for the rest of this week, fearing strike-related violence.
“If the workers are working in the factories, some bad elements of the demonstrators will go around and destroy your factories gates and properties in order to force the workers out to join the demonstration to demand a wage of US$160,” reads a letter sent by email and obtained by the Post. “It is safer if there are no workers in the factories.”
Five labour unions called for a nationwide strike on Tuesday, hours after the Ministry of Labour announced that the minimum wage in Cambodia’s garment sector would rise next year from the current $80 – including a $5 health bonus – to $95, rather than the $160 workers want.
Him Phalla, administrative manager of Huey Chuen (Cambodia) Corp. Ltd., said the Dangkor district factory allowed workers to go home after receiving GMAC’s email this morning.
“In order to avoid any problems … we allowed them to stay home,” Phalla said. “We’ve seen that some of the workers have broken property at other factories, so we fear that the same thing will happen to our factory.”
Upon hearing about the GMAC letter this morning, Ath Thorn, president of the Coalition of Cambodian Apparel Workers’ Democratic Union, encouraged workers to strike peacefully.
“We encourage workers to go on strike and also demand $160,” Thorn said this morning. “But we do not encourage workers to commit crime.”
Thorn said he had heard any reports of any strike-related property damage or violence.
Even if factories did not close, employees still would not show up to work, said Moeun Tola, head of the labour program at the Community Legal Education Centre. There is a lot of anger within the strikers’ ranks, he said.
“The movement now is out of control,” he said.