Search

Search form

Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Strikers descend on ministry

Strikers descend on ministry

Police hold back protesting workers from SL Garment Processing
Police hold back protesting workers from SL Garment Processing (Cambodia). PHA LINA

Strikers descend on ministry

Shouting their demands and trying to force their way through the gate, thousands of striking garment workers rallied in front of the Ministry of Social Affairs to no avail yesterday. The strikes came the morning after management posted a notice saying some 6,000 striking workers were fired unless they returned to work.

More than two weeks after workers first walked off the job at SL Garment Processing (Cambodia) Ltd, approximately 4,000 of them yesterday gathered outside the Social Affairs Ministry.

Inside, government officials facilitated another round of unsuccessful talks between company management and the Cambodian Apparel Workers Democratic Union (C.CAWDU), which represents the workers.
“We waited more than two weeks without getting anything,” Hen Sovann, 20, said as he stood in front of the ministry’s gates yesterday. “We cannot wait anymore.”

Workers’ 12 demands include a monthly minimum wage increase to $150 and for the company to cut all ties with shareholder Meas Sotha, who hired military police to stand guard inside the factory.

C.CAWDU vice president Kong Athit said Sotha’s bringing in of military police amounted to intimidation, provoking workers to strike. The company’s subsequent unwillingness to engage in serious negotiations, he added, demonstrates it is simply trying to remove C.CAWDU from the factory. “This is their way to bust the unions,” Athit said.

Management is willing to negotiate with C.CAWDU, insisted Ken Loo, secretary-general of the Garment Manufacturers Association in Cambodia, but the demand of removing Sotha remains a sticking point.

“Demand for change, demand for an apology, but you can’t demand the removal of management,” Loo said yesterday. “We are at an impasse with that.”

SL employees were doubly angry at yesterday’s demonstration, after the layoffs announcement.

Phnom Penh Municipal Court issued an injunction 12 days ago, ordering SL employees to return to work.

David Welsh, country director of the American Centre for International Labour Solidarity, said yesterday that pulling the trigger on the firings would do more harm than good for SL.

“I’d say it’s a counterproductive threat, [SL is] a well-known factory with international brands,” Welsh said. Firing its staff could cause the strike to “spiral out of control,” he added.

After emerging from the negotiation session yesterday, C.CAWDU president Ath Thorn announced no deal had been struck. “I think that the strike will spread all over the capital if the Ministry [of Social Affairs] does not help the workers,” Thorn said.

“Other workers at other factories will join.”

RECOMMENDED STORIES

  • Breaking: PM says prominent human rights NGO ‘must close’

    Prime Minister Hun Sen has instructed the Interior Ministry to investigate the Cambodian Center for Human Rights (CCHR) and potentially close it “because they follow foreigners”, appearing to link the rights group to the opposition Cambodia National Rescue Party's purported “revolution”. The CNRP - the

  • Rainsy and Sokha ‘would already be dead’: PM

    Prime Minister Hun Sen on Sunday appeared to suggest he would have assassinated opposition leaders Sam Rainsy and Kem Sokha had he known they were promising to “organise a new government” in the aftermath of the disputed 2013 national elections. In a clip from his speech

  • Massive ceremony at Angkor Wat will show ‘Cambodia not in anarchy’: PM

    Government officials, thousands of monks and Prime Minister Hun Sen himself will hold a massive prayer ceremony at Angkor Wat in early December to highlight the Kingdom’s continuing “peace, independence and political stability”, a spectacle observers said was designed to disguise the deterioration of

  • PM tells workers CNRP is to blame for any sanctions

    In a speech to workers yesterday, Prime Minister Hun Sen pinned the blame for any damage inflicted on Cambodia’s garment industry by potential economic sanctions squarely on the opposition party. “You must remember clearly that if the purchase orders are reduced, it is all