Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Ministry meets with protesting garment workers following factory closures

Ministry meets with protesting garment workers following factory closures

An empty factory floor in Phnom Penh's Por Senchey district, pictured this morning after its owner absconded last week leaving workers out of a job.
An empty factory floor in Phnom Penh's Por Senchey district, pictured this morning after its owner absconded last week leaving workers out of a job. Pha Lina

Ministry meets with protesting garment workers following factory closures

Officials from the Ministry of Labour met yesterday with workers from three related garment factories in Por Sen Chey district who were left empty-handed when the owner absconded without warning last week while employees were at one of Prime Minister Hun’s Sen’s speeches.

In the speech, the premier had told the workers that the country did not need specialised labour courts to settle disputes, despite the labour law mandating their creation.

Ministry spokesman Heng Sour was tight-lipped yesterday on the meeting, but workers said they were given two options: sell the remaining assets of the factory or file a complaint with the courts. However, Sout Chet, an official from the Cambodian Union of Movement of Workers, which represents the workers, said workers would rather the ministry find the missing owner first.

Ministry officials “only tried to persuade workers to accept the solution of selling the assets and property”, Chet said. “However, selling the assets would not raise much money, so workers don’t want that solution.”

The Labour Ministry’s Sour refused to say whether the government was in contact with the owner of the three Taiwanese-owned factories, named Yu Da Garment Industry, Yu Fa Garment Industry and SRE Garment Co Ltd.

“I don’t think in any country they would tell about the negotiation,” Sour said. “You wondering could be damaging to the workers.

“Let the process be complete,” he added. “We know how to bring both sides together.”

Garment workers from a shuttered factory protest in Phnom Penh this morning.
Garment workers from a shuttered factory protest in Phnom Penh this morning. Pha Lina

The Ministry of Commerce website identifies a Taiwanese resident named Mei-Fen Lee as the owner of Yu Fa Garment Industry as of January. A woman who answered the phone at the company hung up on a reporter yesterday.

Absconding garment factory owners have become such a problem that Labour Minister Ith Samheng floated the idea last year of requiring factories to pay out severance at the end of each contract. Labour rights advocates have called for similar reforms.

Esther Germans of Better Factories Cambodia said yesterday that industry players and government officials should consider requiring factories to put down deposits as collateral.

“Deposits of factories can be used to pay workers their missed wages, severance pay and indemnity payments when owners run away,” Germans said in an email.

However, Garment Manufacturers Association of Cambodia head Ken Loo said workers were already highly protected, adding that employees of any company take on the risk that their employer may go out of business, including The Phnom Penh Post.

“Are you specially protected? I don’t think so,” Loo said. “It’s like any company that goes into liquidation. It’s nothing special.”

Loo acknowledged, however, that selling off garment factory assets in the past had typically not generated enough to recoup workers’ losses.

Garment worker Deuk Doeun, who is eight months pregnant and worked at Yu Da for nine years, expressed frustration and fear about her dwindling savings. “It looks bad that foreign employers can do something like this so easily in our own country, just disappear without any responsibility,” she said. “We workers look like rubbish; we work so hard, and in the end we didn’t even get our salary.”

Updated: 8:32am, Tuesday 13 February 2018

MOST VIEWED

  • Hun Sen ready to ‘break record’, says Rainsy lost

    Caretaker prime minister Hun Sen used a meeting with 18,400 factory workers on Wednesday to predict that he would beat the record for being the world’s longest-serving non-royal leader. He also used the platform to slam political opponent Sam Rainsy who he said had lost

  • Sihanoukville land prices skyrocketing amid breakneck development

    Sihanoukville, the Kingdom’s most famous beach destination for tourists, is seemingly becoming a paradise for Chinese investors as well. The huge influx of Chinese investors has caused property values to rise, especially the price of land, which has nearly doubled in some places near

  • US names new ambassador to Cambodia

    US President Donald Trump on Friday appointed W Patrick Murphy as the new US Ambassador to Cambodia, replacing incumbent William A Heidt. A press release posted on the White House’s website said nominee W Patrick Murphy is currently acting principal deputy assistant secretary at

  • Kingdom is at a crossroads between East, West after poll

    It was dubbed a success by caretaker prime minister Hun Sen after the electoral victory of his Cambodian People’s Party (CPP), which is poised to take all seats in the National Assembly. But the July 29 national election has not been positively looked at by