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Firings, unpaid wages drive two factory strikes

Firings, unpaid wages drive two factory strikes

4 horus vireak mai

Nearly 100 former employees of the Horus Industrial garment factory protested in front of Phnom Penh Municipal Court yesterday, demanding the company’s owner pay the remaining wages and benefits owed them since the factory’s closure in November.

In January, the Arbitration Council ordered the company to pay the outstanding funds to its approximately 1,200 former workers, but four months later, the factory still has not handed over the money, said the 89 workers protesting yesterday.

“We’ve spent a lot of time protesting,” said former employee Kong Sopheap. “It takes time we could use to find other jobs.”

Another former employee, Yon La, said the factory owed some workers up to $1,000 in wages and benefits.

The company could not be reached.  

Separately, MH Bio-Energy, a Phnom Penh bio-fuel factory whose production was temporarily suspended in 2009 due to pollution concerns, is drawing criticism again, this time from workers who claim it fired 10 employees without severance benefits on the pretext that they were drinking on the job.

Sek Sokenthea, one of the fired workers, maintained that he had not been drinking during working hours, but rather during the lunch break, and had consequently requested time off.

Chey Sovan, president of the Khmers Worker Power Federation Union, said he had sent complaints to the authorities when the factory failed to comply with an Arbitration Council order to reinstate the workers.

More than 100 of the factory’s workers will strike on May 2 to demand the workers’ reinstatement and improved working conditions, he said.

An MH Bio-Energy representative who declined to be named yesterday denied that the company had mistreated workers, saying the fact that the fired workers are seeking reinstatement proved otherwise.