WORKERS at a foreign-owned cement factory in Kampot have gone on strike and taken
over the building.
Displaying signs such as "Khmers need investors but we don't need oppression!",
some 400 workers said last week that they have been occupying the Chakrey Ting factory
since March 19.
The strikers say they are protesting the wrongful suspension of six workers. They
charge that the plant's American security and safety officer, George Beach, suspended
six workers for allegedly taking bribes from factory clients. The six insist that
these were simply "tips" traditionally given to workers.
Strikers claim that the suspended workers were unjustly accused and were told that
they could return after signing an incriminating letter. Workers also allege that
Beach has unjustly suspended workers in the past and has repeatedly threatened and
verbally abused workers, calling them "savages who need to be tamed." Beach
could not be reached for comment.
Chakrey Ting has been leased to the Naga Cement company by the government since May
1996. Naga Cement's partners are the Swiss Holderbank, the Cambodian Industrial Development
Corporation, and local businessman Suor Pheng.
"The strike is under negotiation with procedures ... according to the Cambodian
labor law," said general manager Peter Frazer. "I'm not prepared to make
any comment on the strike, because I do not wish to prejudice any negotiations."
Kampot police chief Seng Sokum stated that the strike is peaceful and that he does
not have any plans to break it up. A Ministry of Industry advisor said that they
were working with the Ministry of Labor and worker representatives to resolve the
dispute. The advisor did not know when the strike would be resolved.
However, workers allege that even with the resolution of the strike, organizers are
likely to be fired.
In response to this allegation Frazer submits: "There may well be ... some legal
[action] taking place at some time, but I don't want to say anything that might prejudice
any of us."
Worker delegate Say Sam Onn says mistreatment of the six is the primary concern of
the strike, but adds that they are also protesting working conditions such as $40-57
monthly wages, temporary hiring of workers, hazardous health and safety standards,
and limited medical coverage.
Frazer responded: "I do not accept these statements and I have no further comment