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Plush-toy factory to pay up

A Buddhist monk passes by employees outside the First & Main plush-toy company’s factory yesterday in Phnom Penh’s Sen Sok district. Photograph: Vireak Mai/Phnom Penh Post

The owner of teddy-bear company First & Main promised yester­day to pay 357 em­ployees at its shuttered factory in Phnom Penh half of the wages they are owed, a workers’ representative said.

Amid speculation the factory had gone bankrupt, First & Main’s US-based President Brad Holes took to Skype to resolve the issue, said Mech Mom, a worker who witnessed his call with Social Affairs Ministry officials.

“We will go to the factory [this morning] to get our wages for August,” she said. “Ministry officials said we would receive the other half in a week or two.”

Holes had spoke of reopening the factory when he had the money, Mom said.

“But the other workers and I will go to work at another factory. We will come to get the rest of wages when the administrative officials contact us,” she said.

The 357 workers at the factory in the capital’s Sen Sok district were told to take paid leave on August 26.

When they returned to the factory on Monday to meet with management the gates were locked and managers were nowhere to be seen, they claim.

According to Holes, a group stormed the factory, causing untold damage – they broke the surveillance system, he said – and prevented a female management representative from leaving the factory.

Mom yesterday denied that workers had trashed the factory and said she believed outsiders had stolen equipment.

Dave Welsh, country director for the American Center for International Labor Solidarity, said his office had been assisting the workers.

ACILS had sent 10 staff to inspect First & Main’s claims the factory had been trashed.

“We didn’t see that damage,” he said, adding that his team had returned with about 20 photos of the factory.

But three computers and a thumb-printing machine had been damaged, he said.

Holes said the resolution he had offered workers had been no different to the one he had offered before the factory had been vandalised.

He was not clear if the factory would reopen.

“If  we close down and liquidate . . . I’m sure workers would get paid 100 per cent of what they’re owed,” he said.

To contact the reporters on this story: Shane Worrell at shane.worrell@phnompenhpost.com
Mom Kunthear at kunthear.mom@phnompenhpost.com

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