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Gov’t declares employers must pay seniority as workers strike

Content image - Phnom Penh Post
Workers gathered to protest for the second day in front of the Y & W Garment Co Ltd in Spean Thma commune’s Prek Chrey village of Phnom Penh’s Dangkor district. The protesters carried signs and blocked a public road, calling on the Chinese owner of the factory to meet their demands. CENTRAL

Gov’t declares employers must pay seniority as workers strike

Minister of Labour and Vocational Training Ith Sam Heng has issued a notice for enterprises and their employees, announcing that newly accrued seniority payments and those owed in arrears should all be made payable to workers this year.

Instructions from Sam Heng on January 21 detailed payment schedules for current and past-due benefits.

Seniority payments owed to workers for 2019 or before, if any, that went unpaid last year should now be paid in the first and third quarters of this year. Payments from 2019 or before which were scheduled to be paid this year shall be issued in the second and fourth quarters.

Seniority payments for last year will be paid in the first and third quarters this year, while payments earned this year will be issued in the second and fourth quarters.

“Workers and their employers can negotiate to determine procedures and specific timelines of these seniority payments according to the circumstances of their businesses,” Sam Heng said.

The ministry called on employers and workers to put common interests first and find responsible solutions for sustainable harmony in work environments.

Separately on January 21, an estimated 6,000 workers gathered to protest for the second day in front of the Y & W Garment Co Ltd in Spean Thma commune’s Prek Chrey village of Phnom Penh’s Dangkor district.

The protesters carried signs and blocked a public road, calling on the Chinese owner of the factory to meet their demands.

A woman who has worked there for five years and spoke on condition of anonymity said negotiations with the company had reached an impasse, and without further recourse, workers decided to hold the protests.

“Until a solution is reached, we will continue to protest and block the road. The factory has continued delaying seniority payments and severance pay. We cannot wait anymore,” she said.

Some workers accused police of using violence and arresting a worker, but police denied the accusation.

Dangkor police chief Chim Sitha told The Post on January 21 that police had neither arrested any protesters nor used violence against them.

“The labour ministry is working with all related parties to negotiate a settlement. The accusations by workers against the police are not true – they’re only rumours,” he said.

He noted, however, that he and a traffic police officer had sustained minor injuries after being struck by bottles of water, batons and stones thrown at them as they attempted to clear protesters from blocking the road.

Workers had thrown the bottles at his face and at the chest of the officer accompanying him while two cars had also been damaged, he added.

Tes Rokaphal, secretary-general of the ministry’s Committee for the Settlement of Strikes and Demonstrations, could not be reached for comment on January 21, nor could representatives of Y & W Garment.

Phnom Penh municipal labour department director Chuon Vuthy said officials had gone to the scene to work towards resolution.

Seng Sokea, an employee at the factory, said the owner had broken a promise to make seniority payments on January 20 as well as providing a government-mandated five per cent severance pay. Instead, workers were told to wait.

“The employer then promised that he would provide the seniority payments in March, but we did not agree and have gathered to stage the protests,” she said.

Protesters warned that they might block the road indefinitely until a solution is achieved.

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