A threatened overtime boycott began at many of Cambodia’s garment factories yesterday – but not everyone could afford to walk off the job at her shift’s scheduled end.
At 4pm, thousands of workers poured out of their factories as part of their ongoing calls for a $160 monthly minimum wage and the release of 21 men arrested during a strike last month, said Pav Sina, president of the Collective Union of Movement of Workers.
“Workers almost everywhere – in every province – left without doing overtime,” he stated.
Sina said last night that workers from more than 200 factories had walked off the job. At 60 of those factories, he added, every worker had taken part in the strike.
Sean Sophal, a worker representative from SL Garment in Phnom Penh, said employees had decided to boycott overtime for the rest of the week.
“We decided not to work overtime from today until Friday in order to demand higher wages and to urge relevant institutions to find a resolution to our demands,” she said.
But not everyone could forgo the extra pay that overtime adds to their meagre salaries.
Bouy Srey Mom, a worker at Siu Quinh Garment in Phnom Penh’s Dangkor district, said she needed to keep working to support her family.
“I can get $1 per hour [for overtime], and I only do two hours per day,” she said.
The overtime strike is expected to last all week, ahead of a public forum on the matter on March 8 and a proposed stay-at-home strike beginning on March 12 if demands are not met.
Rong Chhun, president of the Cambodian Confederation of Unions, said yesterday that workers were expressing great interest in joining the strike next month.
“When I met with worker representatives in each zone, I saw that almost all workers are interested in a mass strike,” he said. “They would like to join.”
But Sok Outdom, administrative manager at Russey Keo district’s Maurea Garment, said not a single worker had refused overtime at the factory yesterday.
“No one left their overtime, but I can’t speak for other factories,” he said.
There were similar scenes at Hey Chuen factory in Por Sen Chey district, according to administrative manager Him Phalla.
“The workers at our factory didn’t seem interested in any boycott,” Phalla said. “They kept doing their overtime as normal.”
Labour Ministry spokesman Heng Sour couldn’t be reached yesterday, and ministry official Sat Samoth declined to comment.
Mass wage strikes in December and January culminated in security forces shooting dead at least four people during a clash near several garment factories.