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Footwear protests continue into fourth day

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King Maker Footwear Co workers continue protesting as they demand that 50 per cent of their salary be paid after the factory suspended their jobs for a month due to a lack of orders. Photo supplied

Footwear protests continue into fourth day

More than 2,000 workers at King Maker Footwear Co continued protesting for a fourth day on Wednesday, as they demanded that 50 per cent of their salary be paid, after their jobs were suspended by the factory for a month due to a lack of orders.

The Taiwanese factory, located in Bavet town’s Manhattan special economic zone in Svay Rieng province, was until recently a leading footwear manufacturer in the Kingdom, exporting shoes to the Japanese market for footwear brand Asics.

But the factory has suffered in recent months as Asics cancelled its contract.

Consequently, the factory’s owners recently announced that they would suspend work for its 2,180 workers for a month from January 20 to February 20.

By way of compensation, the factory offered each worker $13 for the month. Workers rejected the offer and began protesting on Saturday, demanding 50 per cent of their salary for the full suspension period.

Voice Khmer Youth Union Federation deputy director On Sakhorn told The Post on Wednesday that following four days of protests, the factory owners sat down with representatives of the workers on Wednesday to negotiate.

He said the Svay Rieng provincial Labour and Vocational Training Department and the Garment Manufacturers Association of Cambodia helped in talks that offered workers an improved offer of $30 each for the month.

The offer was rejected by workers who stuck to their demand of 50 per cent of their wages.

“The workers say they need at least $75 for the month to pay for rent and food. Therefore, the offer of $30 per month is really not enough."

“They keep asking the union to demand 50 per cent of their salary from the factory,” Sakhorn said, adding that the factory has not given any sign that it will accept the workers’ demands.

The Ministry of Labour and Vocational Training said it will send its labour dispute team to the arbitration council for further legal procedures to help resolve the case.

King Maker Footwear Co representative Vong Samnang told The Post that the workers are aware of the difficult situation facing the factory and that it did not have much work for them.

“The workers should understand that the factory is receiving no orders and is trying to find a new partner to get a new job for them after the one-month suspension is over,” he said.

He said the factory contacted a new buyer after Asics cancelled its order, with new brands showing interest and likely to make orders by the end of February. Until then, they could not improve their compensation offer.

“The company is maintaining its position of offering $30 for each worker during the suspension,” he said.

Samnang said the factory guarantees its workers a minimum wage of $180 with other benefits, including 2,000 riel ($0.50) for lunch and $13 a month for transportation and health services.

Svay Rieng province Labour and Vocational Training Department deputy director Ou Sakhoeun told The Post on Wednesday that the labour dispute resolution team has tried to negotiate with both parties, but the workers have refused to compromise despite the factory’s improved offer.

“The factory agreed to offer $30 for each worker, but the workers disagreed and have demanded 50 per cent of their salary."

“At the moment, our team is observing and mediating with both sides, but if they cannot find common ground, we will prepare this case and send it to the arbitration council for further procedures,” he said.

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