Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Garment workers at shuttered Cambodia factories try to cash in on government compensation offer

Garment workers at shuttered Cambodia factories try to cash in on government compensation offer

Workers from the shuttered Chung Fai Knitwear factory block National Road 2 in 2016. Workers from the factory said yesterday they are optimistic of a resolution to their dispute over back pay. Photo supplied
Workers from the shuttered Chung Fai Knitwear factory block National Road 2 in 2016. Workers from the factory said yesterday they are optimistic of a resolution to their dispute over back pay. Photo supplied

Garment workers at shuttered Cambodia factories try to cash in on government compensation offer

After a surprise announcement last week from the Ministry of Labour that it would pay employees from a group of shuttered factories whose owners had fled, garment workers and union leaders are scrambling to figure out which factories qualify for compensation.

The ministry said it had set aside $4.6 million for employees of nine factories.

However, employees say they have been left guessing as to which are on the list. Workers from at least two Phnom Penh factories – Co-Seek Garment and Center World Garment – have been informed their companies were not included.

Former Co-Seek employee Khun Nary said she and other workers were told by a ministry official last week that they were not among the nine chosen companies, after the official first claimed the payouts were “fake news”.

Roughly 100 former employees of Co-Seek are still seeking salary and severance after their factory owner took off in August 2016.

“The court procedure has taken a very long time and we still haven’t gotten a solution yet,” Nary said.

Meanwhile, workers in Chung Fai Knitwear factory say they are cautiously optimistic after going to the prime minister’s cabinet and being asked to fill out contact forms for all workers.

“I have a bit of hope now that I and other workers will get the payment of our salary and severance,” said Khorn Chivin, a former Chung Fai employee.

Chivin said labour officials told the group that five factories in Phnom Penh, three in Kampong Speu, one in Kandal and one in Kampot had been chosen.

Ministry of Labour spokesman Heng Sour could not be reached yesterday and Garment Manufacturers Association of Cambodia head Ken Loo said he did not know which companies were included.

Labour rights activists welcomed the decision to pay the workers as a short-term solution but stressed that many workers would be left out.

“There’s numerous factories, not just nine,” Solidarity Center senior program officer Khun Tharo said. “What will be the long-term strategy and process of factory closures needs to be addressed.”

Tharo said a group of workers from Center World Garment also went to the ministry last week and were informed that they were not among the chosen factories. Roughly 200 workers from the factory have not received severance since the factory was closed in 2015.

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