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Workers from Ocean Garment factory march through the streets on the outskirts of Phnom Penh last week
Workers from Ocean Garment factory march through the streets on the outskirts of Phnom Penh last week, demanding the company pay their full monthly wage during its temporary closure. PHOTO SUPPLIED

Ocean workers pray for jobs

Protesting workers at Ocean Garment factory say they are worried the manufacturer, which has suspended operations for one month, will close altogether.

About 20 per cent of Ocean’s 1,300 workers demanding full payment during the break have found work elsewhere, while longtime employees are literally praying for a palatable solution, said Houn Vanna, a representative of the Collective Union of Movement of Workers (CUMW).

“Most of the workers who abandoned the protest have worked at Ocean for only about three to four months, so it will not benefit them much to continue,” Vanna said.

While some have sought other job opportunities, many of the 1,214 still striking have worked at Ocean for more than a decade and are entitled to seniority bonuses if the factory closes for good, Vanna said.

Ocean workers began striking on May 24 after management announced it would shut down for a month from May 26 due to low orders and that employees would each receive $15 during the closure. Strikers demand that Ocean pay their full salaries during the period.

CUMW president Pav Sina said on Monday that if the factory and Ministry of Labour don’t find a solution agreeable to workers, they would hold a “big protest” in the form of a march to the ministry on Thursday. Last week, police blocked about 1,000 people attempting to march from the Por Sen Chey factory to the ministry.

Labour Ministry spokesman Heng Sour could not be reached yesterday.

Reaction to the situation has ranged from frustrated employees breaking a thumb-scanner machine at the factory yesterday to pooling money to purchase chickens and fruit as prayer offerings.

“We prayed to the spirit of the factory to help us with our problem,” said Thy, a striker who declined to give her full name. “It is our tradition, but it does not mean that we’re going to stop asking government officials to intervene.”

An Ocean official who declined to be named yesterday would only say that the factory will remain closed until June 26.

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