More than 200 garment workers from Singaporean-owned Bright Sky factory in Phnom Penh’s Por Sen Chey district were locked inside the facility yesterday, after union leaders attempted to mount a protest, saying that workers were anxious their jobs may be at risk as the factory switches from garment to bag manufacturing.
According to Tep Ton, president of the Workers Development Union Federation, workers at the factory were prevented from striking yesterday after the employer locked the doors from 11am to 3pm.
“They are afraid of changing jobs from clothes to bag sewing,” he said. “If someday they don’t sew the bag well, they will face a fall-out from their job.”
Ton said the factory had not provided enough training to workers to transition to bag manufacturing, which had left an uneasy tension on the factory floor.
Factory worker Toun Phearum said that the doors were locked when he returned from lunch.
“Today, we wanted out of the factory to protest to demand some conditions,” he said, referring to workers’ demands that jobs were not threatened by the change in production.
Bun Vath, a Bright Sky administrator, said the company had only locked the doors when the unions arrived in order to protect workers.
“We wanted to ensure safety during working hours,” he said. The company had been making bags since the end of 2015, he added, saying that bags simply made up the bulk of the orders the factory was now taking.
“If [workers] want to continue with the job they can, but if they did not want continue, they could ask to stop [working],” he said, without going into further detail as to how the factory was managing the skill changes needed from its employees.
Meanwhile, about 50 garment workers in Kandal province were out in force yesterday, seeking salaries they claim they are owed from Thein Thien factory, which they say shut its doors in August last year.
“We have been waiting for the court‘s decision, but now [the workers] can’t wait anymore with so many months gone by,” Yong Phany, a president at the Democratic Independent Solidarity Union Federation. The company could not be reached for comment.