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Garment workers renew strike over unpaid wages at Korean factory

Garment workers stage a protest over unpaid wages in Kandal province this morning.
Garment workers stage a protest over unpaid wages in Kandal province this morning. Pha Lina

Garment workers renew strike over unpaid wages at Korean factory

Hundreds of garment workers blocked a road outside the Gawon Apparel Co factory in Kandal province today in yet another demonstration over unpaid wages.

Employees at the Korean-owned garment factory, located in Takhmao town, have protested several times over the last year over lack of payment.

Garment worker Seam Sokeang, 25, said the company is late on its promises to pay workers and has been suspending work in different sections of the company for one week at a time. According to Sokheang, who has worked at the factory for more than five years, the factory also suspended workers for three months earlier this year.

“We have been calm as the factory keeps promising from time to time but they never keep their promise,” Sokheang said.

Soum Silen, 37, who said she has worked for Gawon’s sister company, First Gawon Apparel, since 1999, said she was asked by managers to work at Gawon for three months as the other factory underwent renovations. However, Silen said she was never moved back to the other factory.

“It’s getting very difficult as we don’t have any money to pay for the rent and food,” Silen said. “We don’t want to protest, but if company doesn’t pay us we don’t have a choice.”

Saing Yot, dispute resolution officer for the Coalition of Cambodia Apparel Workers' Democratic Union, said the union met with factory managers and employees today and that the company agreed to pay workers by this afternoon, including for the suspension period.

“The suspension is illegal because there was no approval from the labour inspector of the Ministry of Labour,” Yot said. “In the agreement, the factory also promised to pay worker’s salary on the 10th of every month and if they cannot afford to pay, they’ll sell their property to pay workers' salaries.”

Factory manager Mercedes Cha acknowledged the factory had had trouble paying workers’ salaries in the past but said managers would find the money to pay the workers by tomorrow.

“We have had [protests] this month and last month because of the salary – if [the pay] is not enough, the workers are not working,” Cha said.

She said managers distributed $50 to $100 to workers today and would pay the rest tomorrow.

Additional reporting by Daphne Chen

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