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Factory under watch to stop asset sell-off

Garment workers block the driveway of a shuttered factory in Phnom Penh’s Meanchey district after the company tried to remove equipment last week. Photo supplied
Garment workers block the driveway of a shuttered factory in Phnom Penh’s Meanchey district after the company tried to remove equipment last week. Photo supplied

Factory under watch to stop asset sell-off

About 200 workers are keeping vigil day and night outside a knitwear factory in Phnom Penh’s Meanchey district amid suspicions the company has gone bankrupt and is trying to sell off assets.

Free Trade Union member Yung Leap said the employees of Hong Kong-owned Chung Fai Knitwear had been left idle for about a month and not been paid their June wages.

On Friday, they caught a transportation company removing equipment from the Chak Angre Krom commune factory, which produces knitted socks and sweaters.

“They [workers] saw the vans coming out with some office equipment and were afraid the company will shut down without giving notice to the workers,” Leap said.

In past cases, when bankrupt factories’ owners have absconded, the government has often sold off remaining assets, such as abandoned equipment, to pay workers’ back wages.

Leap said the workers needed to be paid their salary and severance pay if the factory was shutting down and that a complaint had been registered with the Ministry of Labour. Ministry spokesman Heng Sour could not be reached yesterday.

Factory administrator Chea Socheat said the last time he spoke to the Hong Kong-based owners they had confirmed the factory was bankrupt, however there had been no official announcement. He said he had been unable to contact them since.

“So far, I have been unable to contact the employer. He has not come to factory or contacted us,” Socheat said.

“The company is seeing less work because there are fewer orders of late,” he added.

However, he said the workers were confused and the company was not selling off assets – only some small items of office equipment.

Choun Kiri, a worker representative, said some had been working for the company up to 18 years and that they deserved their severance pay.

“We saw the vans transporting office equipment, like air conditioners, printers and other office materials,” Kiri said. “We thought the company had closed the factory.”

Workers would continue to keep watch at the factory, she said, in case the owner attempted to remove the production equipment.

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