Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Garment workers protest payouts for shuttered factories

Garment workers protest payouts for shuttered factories

Workers from Benoh Apparel on Tuesday protest compensation packages provided to them by Ministry of Labour following the closure of their factory in January. Photo supplied
Workers from Benoh Apparel on Tuesday protest compensation packages provided to them by Ministry of Labour following the closure of their factory in January. Photo supplied

Garment workers protest payouts for shuttered factories

Workers from Benoh Apparel and Yu Fa garment factory protested in Phnom Penh on Tuesday over compensation packages handed out by the Ministry of Labour as part of a scheme to reimburse unpaid wages and benefits following the abrupt closure of their factories.

In an unorthodox move, the Labour Ministry set aside $4.6 million to provide severance packages to around 4,000 workers from nine factories whose owners absconded, leaving them unpaid. Officials initiated payments this week for four of the affected firms – Benoh Apparel, Yu Fa, Great Honor and Chung Fai Knitwear – with workers at the firms decrying the packages as well short of what they were owed.

Workers were legally entitled to unpaid salary, annual leave, indemnity for dismissal, compensation for failing to provide a notification period and other damages.

But Orn Soklai, a worker representative for Benoh, said workers had not received annual leave payments or their back pay, resulting in the 200 workers receiving just $40 to $100. The workers protested outside the factory on Tuesday demanding further payment.

“The ministry replied that money that the government has is for 4,000 workers, so it cannot distribute it precisely and they have tried their best to pay the compensation,” Soklai said.

Benoh had ceased operations in November and gave workers $60 for what they said would be a two-month work suspension, but when workers returned, they found the owners had deserted the factory.

Similarly, around 100 workers at Yu Fa Garment Industry protested outside the factory in Phnom Penh’s Choam Chao commune, with worker representative Hor Chheng saying workers had not received compensation for untaken annual leave.

“When we protested, the officials of the Ministry of Labour intervened and promised that they will solve this problem,” she said. “We already told them that we do not want to protest, as long as they agreed to solve for us.”

Ministry spokesman Heng Sour said on Tuesday that the process was ongoing and that it was better than waiting for the government to liquidate the delinquent factories’ assets to cover back pay, the typical way of resolving such disputes. He would not address what would become of the shuttered factories’ remaining assets.

But Ath Thorn, president of the Cambodian Labour Confederation, said the government has not proceeded with the usual process of liquidating assets. He said the $4.6 million disbursement was to accelerate payments to workers and that the subsequent sale of the factories’ assets would be to recoup the money, not cover the discrepancy.

“The $4.6 million is the government’s offer to workers to pay in advance, it doesn’t mean they provided it to the workers for free,” he said.

MOST VIEWED

  • PM responds to Rainsy ticket claims

    Prime Minister Hun Sen on Monday expressed frustration over claims by Sam Rainsy that he had altered Rainsy’s ticket with Thai Airways to prevent him boarding his November 7 flight to Thailand, from where he had claimed he would enter Cambodia. Hun Sen made the

  • Phnom Penh International Airport wins award as passenger traffic soars

    The Phnom Penh International Airport has been awarded Best Asia Pacific Regional Airport 2019 for its sustained high growth in passenger traffic in recent years. The award was presented by the Capa Centre for Aviation (Capa) – a world-leading and trusted organisation that provides market intelligence to

  • PM urges ‘democracies’ to learn from horrors Cambodia faced

    Prime Minister Hun Sen on Tuesday chided countries that he said declared themselves a democracy while supporting a military coup that eventually gave birth to the Khmer Rouge regime. Speaking during the 2nd Asia-Pacific Summit at the Peace Palace, Hun Sen said without naming those

  • Princess Buppha Devi passes away aged 77

    Princess Norodom Buppha Devi, who was famous for her skills and key roles behind the Kingdom’s Royal Ballet, passed away on Monday from unspecified illness at a hospital in the Thai capital Bangkok, according to the official Facebook page of King Norodom Sihamoni. “May

  • PM: Request for release of plotters not due to pressure

    Prime Minister Hun Sen on Saturday said his request to have the supporters of former opposition leader Sam Rainsy and his “coup plot” released on bail was not made under international pressure. Speaking at the groundbreaking ceremony for the construction of 34 roads in Preah Sihanouk

  • Ministry deplores RFA report on EBA

    The Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation on Friday deplored as fake news a Radio Free Asia (RFA) report that it had received a copy of the European Commission’s assessment on the human rights situation in Cambodia as part of the Everything But