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

  • Reuters: US Embassy fired 32 staff members for sharing pornography

    The United States Embassy in Phnom Penh has fired 32 non-diplomatic staff members who were allegedly caught exchanging pornographic images and video, including of minors, according to the news agency Reuters. Four sources, who spoke on condition of anonymity, told Reuters the content was shared in

  • US think tank warns of China's 'ulterior motives'

    A US think tank on Tuesday warned that spreading Chinese investment in the Indo-Pacific follows a pattern of leveraging geopolitical influence at the expense of the nations receiving investment, including Cambodia. The report looks at a sample of 15 Chinese port development projects, noting that the

  • More than three tonnes of ivory reportedly bound for Cambodia seized in Mozambique

    A total of 3.5 tonnes of ivory reportedly bound for Cambodia was seized by authorities in Mozambique late last week, according to the NGO Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES). CITES' information was based on a report from the

  • Huge timber haul seized in Kratie raid, suspects sought

    Kratie provincial authorities were searching on Wednesday for the owners of hundreds of cubic metres of first-grade timber found loaded onto seven heavy trucks during a raid on a warehouse in Snuol district. After getting a tip-off, Military Police, police, Forestry Administration and court officials