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Strike lifted, overtime cut in Kandal

Workers secure $50 bonuses, but see large cuts in overtime

THOUSANDS of garment workers from the Yong Wa garment factory in Kandal province's Takhmao district have returned to work following a four-day strike demanding a US$50 end-of-year bonus, garment workers said Monday.  

Chamroeun Chan, 40, a Yong Wa garment worker who was beaten Thursday during a confrontation with police, said that workers did not want to go back to work, but that the factory owner had threatened to close the factory if workers did not call off the strike.

"After we held our strike in front of the factory, they agreed to pay us $50, but not all at once. On February 6, they will pay $30, and then in April they will pay $20 more," she said.

At least four garment workers were injured in clashes with provincial and district police during Thursday's strike.

Workers' representative Kouch Dara, a member of the Shikado Union, said that it took three days of negotiations with factory management before the workers' yearly bonus was reinstated.

They are the owners, so they can put pressure on us

in other ways.

But worker Sokhum Molina said that many workers did not wish to return to work because the factory owners had abolished overtime following the labour unrest.

"The factory owner will only allow us to work from 6:30am to 3pm, so we don't have enough money to support ourselves," she said.

"We need to save some money to send to our family in the home province [and] if we work overtime from 3pm to 6pm, we can get around $90 per month."

She said the factory owners had also deducted $5 from this month's salary for all workers involved in the strike. She vowed the workers would stop work again if the owner continued to withhold the money.

But Mean Srey Ly, 28, another worker at the factory, said that no matter how many strikes were held, the factory management always seemed to win.

"They are the owners, so they can put pressure on us in other ways. They agreed to pay our yearly bonus, but now they have stopped us working overtime," she said.

"I think if they keep doing this for another two months, our workers will stop working because we don't have enough money to live on. Going back home is better then working."

According to the Ministry of Commerce, garment exports dropped two percent in 2008 on figures from the previous year.

The global economic downtown is held responsible, representing the latest in a series of hits to what is one of Cambodia's largest industries.

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