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Factory’s owner in crosshairs

Hundreds of garment workers demonstrate against Pine Great factory owner
Hundreds of garment workers demonstrate against Pine Great factory owner and appeal to government officials in front of Phnom Penh’s Social Affairs Ministry yesterday. VIREAK MAI

Factory’s owner in crosshairs

Some 400 garment workers yesterday gathered outside the Ministry of Social Affairs to plead for government intervention against a factory owner who fled without paying them overdue wages three months ago.

Khem Chamnan, a Free Trade Union representative from the Pine Great (Cambodia) factory in Phnom Penh’s Meanchey district, said this was the third gathering in as many months.

“The employer of the factory fled in April without paying wages to the workers . . . but they did not get anything until now,” he said.

“I think the ministry hasn’t intervened soon enough in this case because it did not happen recently, but it was three months ago,” he said.

In early May, more than 700 workers from the shuttered factory were promised their back pay, only to arrive at the factory and find much of its equipment removed and the owner gone. Workers said they believed he fled to China.

Vong Sovann, deputy secretary-general of the Committee for the Settlement of Strikes and Demonstrations at the Social Affairs Ministry, said yesterday that a working group had been created to deal with the case.

“The committee met with the workers and union officials to find resolution, and we estimated that the workers would not get enough for their wage and benefit, so then we sent the case to the court to take measures through the law,” he said.

According to Sovann, the court will likely issue an injunction ordering the sale of all remaining equipment. If that is insufficient to repay the workers, he said, then they will likely issue a warrant for the arrest of the owner.

Speaking outside the ministry, a worker who declined to be named, said she intended to continue the protest until her wages are paid in full.

“I cannot allow the employer to walk out without taking responsibility. We worked for them too hard. They have to pay for our labour,” she said.