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Union leader hurt in strikes

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Photo by Vireak Mai/Phnom Penh Post

A protest leader speaks to garment workers during a strike outside the New Orchid factory in Kandal province yesterday.

Thousands of garment workers went on strike yesterday demanding higher wages, fees for transportation and housing, and in one case, the elimination of smelly odours caused by a fish farm near their factory.

Workers burned tyres and one union leader was allegedly assaulted with an electric baton by factory supervisors.

At the SH clothing factory in Phnom Penh, more than 700 workers continued to protest the failure of factory owners to meet their long-standing demands – despite the Arbitration Council having ordered the protesters back to work last week.

Lay Sokha, deputy director of SH factory’s Free Trade Union, said strikers burned tyres to try to force management back to the negotiating table – a step up from their previous strikes.

They have vowed to continue striking today.

A similar number of workers protested outside the Lim Line factory in Russey Keo district, where almost a dozen demands included a $10 accommodation allowance and the dismissal of a supervisor.

The New Archid factory in Kandal province drew the largest crowd and the most commotion.

About 2,000 workers shouted for $10 in transportation fees and complained about the stench of a fish farm next to the factory.

Poor ventilation at garment industry work sites is a common grievance, according to union officials.

At New Archid, witnesses claimed three supervisors punched a union leader and used an electric baton on him.

When asked about the attack, Sok Khem, the deputy provincial director of the Ministry of Labour in Kandal province, said she wasn’t aware of any violence, adding she plans to look into the matter today.

“We don’t want violence, because we can solve problems with negotiation,” she said.

To contact the reporter on this story: Tep Nimol at nimol.tep@phnompenhpost.com

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