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Workers’ ‘resignations’ disputed

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Employees of the First & Main plush toy manufacturer stand outside the factory following its closure last month, Sept. 2012. Photograph: Vireak Mai/Phnom Penh Post

Workers at shuttered plush-toy company First & Main claimed yesterday their bosses had forced them to thumbprint resignation letters they had not written, a plan they feared could deny them severance pay.

Mech Mom, a representative of the 357 workers at the US-owned factory, in the capital’s Sen Sok district, said about 30 had refused the final installment of their outstanding wages because of the demand.

“The company representative forced the workers to thumbprint resignation letters and took back their factory ID cards in exchange for the money,” she said, adding that only about 20 workers had written resignation letters.

But Brad Holes, owner and chief executive officer of the US-based company that closed its factory on August 26, said managers had not forced anyone to resign and had paid out workers from money raised from auctioning assets.

“We requested that employees confirm that they had resigned, which they had already made known . . .  per Mech Mom’s report that [the Post] published and according to other notifications,” he said.

Holes said the company had since been forced to close for good due to a high number of resignations, fear of strikes and a lack of confidence from investors.

“One hundred per cent of salaries, overtime pay, incentive bonuses, etc, were paid, except for the few workers who did not show up to be paid and will be paid [today],” Holes said.

“Additionally, a portion of severance remuneration was paid, up to the full amount that was collected from the sale of assets.”

Holes disputed suggestions the factory had been on the verge of financial collapse in late August; workers, he said, had taken a two-week paid break after defective toys discovered in an order had affected operations.

“These defects far exceeded the factory’s normal count of them and so management assumes that they [resulted] from sabotage and as fallout from [an earlier] strike,” he said.

American Center for International Labor Solidarity country director Dave Welsh said his organisation was assisting the workers who had refused Monday’s offer.

“It troubles me they’re using the term ‘resignation’; why do you need to resign from a factory that doesn’t operate anymore?”

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

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