All but four garment factories in Svay Rieng province were closed yesterday, as a strike of thousands of workers there continued into its second week, a labour union official said.
The strike, estimated to involve about 20,000 people across the province’s Tai Seng and Manhattan special economic zones, began immediately after Khmer New Year, said Kat Lot, vice president of the Collective Union of Movement of Workers (CUMW).
Workers began leaving their posts in protest, when word of a $50 bonus received by employees at A&J factory spurred workers at other factories who did not receive a bonus.
“Thousands of workers in two special economic zones in Svay Rieng Province’s Bavet town continued protesting today, since their demands have been refused,” Lot said yesterday.
Members of CUMW and non-unionised workers are among the strikers.
In a statement released on its website yesterday, the Garment Manufacturers Association in Cambodia decried inaction by the Ministry of Labour and local authorities in putting a stop to workers’ demonstrations, which, the group says, are tantamount to extortion.
“Because those factories refused to give them this money, [CUMW] led the workers to do the violent demonstration by throwing the rocks at the factories, threatening other workers not to return to work and destroying the factories’ properties,” the statement says. “It is so disappointing that there seems to be no action from the authorities to stop this activity.”
However, Svay Rieng provincial labour department director Has Bunthy yesterday said police and military officials have been placed in the two special economic zones in case violence occurred, but demonstrations have so far remained peaceful.
Bunthy met with officials from GMAC and the special economic zones yesterday to discuss possible solutions, he said.
GMAC secretary-general Ken Loo said yesterday that about 20,000 people hadn’t shown up for work, but that does not necessarily mean they are participating in the strike.
Workers are unreasonable in their demand, because they were never promised a $50 bonus, Loo said.