Nearly 400 workers at the USA Fully Field (Cambodia) Garment factory blocked National Road 2 in Phnom Penh’s Meanchey district yesterday after fears spread that the factory was winding down operations and that management wouldn’t pay necessary wages once it closed.
Soy Nakri, a worker representative at the factory, said the protest started on Thursday when factory management began removing equipment without telling workers.
While some 60 per cent of machinery remains, Nakri said that workers had not been given any jobs to do since the equipment was taken.
“We decided to block the road this morning because the employers and the authorities did not find any resolution for us,” she said, referring to a third round of negotiations underway since the strike began.
“We need our seniority pay, because the factory attempted to close without informing the workers,” she said.
Having worked at the factory since 1999, Nakri calculates that her seniority pay, which accumulates over time for a one-time payment once employment ends, is more than $1,600.
Yong Leab, an officer with the Free Trade Union, said yesterday that it was all too common for garment workers in Cambodia to run into difficulties when factories unexpectedly shut down.
“I always see the workers crying and trying very hard to protest and demanding their payments when the factory closes or the employers flee,” she said.
Leab said the onus should not be on the workers to protest against management and appealed to officials to get their contractual dues.
“I think it nearly becomes part of the culture of the garment workers, until they get their payment,” Leab said.
A USA garment factory representative, who declined to be named, said negotiations were ongoing, but did not confirm that the factory was closing. The representative said the company agreed to pay $650 for workers who were there from a year to more than 10 years, and $100 for those who worked on a three-month contract.
Huy Houth, a deputy director administrator in Meanchey district who participated in the negotiations, said yesterday that the company representative had told him the factory would remain open, and that the strike was the result of a misunderstanding. Houth said the company wants to cancel old contracts with the workers and negotiate new terms.
“They assured me that the company will not close, but the workers are confused and they are worried that the company will close,” he said. “The company wants to make a new contract with the workers, but it’s still the same company.”
“We are still working on it to find resolution.”
Nakri, the worker representative, was adamant that the factory faced closure, adding that the current offer was not enough, and would not be accepted.
“We will protest until we get what we are demanding,” she said.