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No back pay, no vote: ex-Pine Great workers

No back pay, no vote: ex-Pine Great workers

More than 750 garment workers still waiting for wages owed to them by their Chinese boss, who skipped town in April, might be unable to vote if they’re not paid by Friday, worker representatives said.

The employees of the Pine Great (Cambodia) factory in the capital’s Meanchey district will be unable to afford travel costs to make it to the polls Sunday if they do not receive the money that the factory owes them, worker representative Keo Sokhom said.

A week ago, Social Affairs Ministry officials promised workers they would receive the owed money before the elections. The wages remain unpaid, said Sokhom.

“We need our money on Friday this week because we need to travel to the province for voting on Sunday,” he said. “It is too late if we get [paid] on Saturday.”

Workers will protest in front of the Ministry of Social Affairs on Election Day if they do not receive their back pay on time, Sokhom said.

The ministry understands the workers’ frustration, said Touch Somuth, a member of a Ministry of Social Affairs committee formed to resolve the Pine Great employees’ problem. He added the government was trying its best to make sure the workers would be able to vote Sunday.

“We had to meet and think about … how we can help the workers who need transportation to vote,” he said, adding that the committee was still preparing the documents required for workers to collect the money owed by their former boss.

“We will try to pay them before the election, but if they cannot get paid before, I feel sorry for them,” Somuth said.

Employee arrangements at other companies sharply contrast with the situation Pine Great workers are facing.

At Xing Chang Xing factory in Phnom Penh’s Russey Keo district, workers are paid in advance so they will be able to travel to polling places, Sem Sun, a worker at the factory, said.

“Workers who vote in Phnom Penh received $25, and those who vote in the provinces received $30,” he said.

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