Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Garment factory shutters, leaving hundreds unpaid

Garment factory shutters, leaving hundreds unpaid

Workers protest at the capital’s Benoh Apparel factory after returning from a work suspension to find the factory shuttered and the owners gone.
Workers protest at the capital’s Benoh Apparel factory after returning from a work suspension to find the factory shuttered and the owners gone. Pha Lina

Garment factory shutters, leaving hundreds unpaid

Garment workers at the Benoh Apparel factory in the capital’s Meanchey district returned to work this week after a two-month suspension to find the building abandoned, prompting a protest demanding compensation from the government.

Some 200 workers gathered outside the factory as union leaders took turns shouting into a loudspeaker, watched by small number of armed police.

Benoh Apparel suspended activities under controversial circumstances in November, telling 600 of its 1,000-member staff to return in January and only paying workers $30 per month during that time, well under the then-minimum wage of $153.

Mon Makara, a 31-year-old garment worker who was at Benoh Apparel for 10 years, worried that the workers will never see compensation, despite meeting with a representative from the Ministry of Labour.

“The same Ministry of Labour representative came to meetings at the factory the last two months and claimed that he guaranteed the employer would not run away, and persuaded the workers to accept the offer of $30 a month,” she said.

Vong Sovann, deputy secretary-general of the committee in charge of resolving strikes and protests at the Ministry of Labour, said he simply followed “the process” when negotiating the suspension pay.

“It was an illegal shutdown,” he said, explaining that the workers can file a court complaint to freeze the company’s assets.

Rim Sao Leap, who worked at the factory for nine years, said the landlord informed the workers that rent had not been paid for three months.

“I want the Ministry of Labour to help the workers get paid according to the law. If we sell the assets, only old sewing machines, we may get $20 each. It is not fair,” she said.

Yun Soksaren, president of the Union for Khmer Workers, said he was contacted to help negotiate the situation with the government.

“Two hundred workers asked me to represent them. The factory is shut down, so either way we don’t have the union registered . . . So I don’t worry that I’ll break the trade union law, and I don’t worry that the government will take action against our union. Our only purpose is to help the workers,” he said.

Multiple workers claimed the factory was under the umbrella of Swedish retailer H&M, but it is not listed as a supplier on their website. A company representative did not respond to a request for comment.

MOST VIEWED

  • Call for boycott of Angkor unacceptable

    Dear Editor, I wish to express my strong disagreement on the article published by Traveller for their website with the title Best places to go in 2020: 12 destinations you should avoid. Below is my opinion of the article. It is obviously free for the Traveller to

  • Ministry issues warning over coronavirus outbreak

    The Ministry of Health on Wednesday asked the public to be on “high alert” as a new virus wreaks havoc across Asia. However, no cases have been reported in the Kingdom thus far. The 2019 Novel Coronavirus (2019-nCoV) has raised the alarm for its similarity to

  • Probe underway after wreckage of drone with Chinese characters found

    Air Force Command spokesman Prak Sokha said on Sunday that investigations are underway regarding the wreckage of a drone that was recovered in Koh Kong province’s Koh Sdech commune in Kiri Sakor district. The wreckage has been taken to the capital for further examination,

  • Gov’t slams UN rapporteurs over Sokha trial statement

    The Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation and the Permanent Mission of the Kingdom of Cambodia to the UN Office in Geneva deplored the statement of three UN special rapporteurs who claimed that Kem Sokha’s trial was “tainted” due to irregularities. The reaction

  • No power shortages next dry season, says energy minister

    Minister of Mines and Energy Suy Sem has assured the public that Cambodia will not suffer power shortages during the next dry season. Speaking on local TV on Tuesday, Sem projected a rise in power demand during 2020’s dry season – which starts in November and

  • Gov’t takes steps to lower logistics, transport costs

    With the threat of losing trade privileges in the EU drawing closer, the government is taking measures to reduce logistics and transportation costs to safeguard the Kingdom’s competitiveness. The EU is due to decide whether or not to withdraw the Kingdom’s trade privileges