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Payouts raise concerns for garment workers at shuttered factories

Benoh Apparel workers sit outside the abandoned factory in January. Workers from Benoh and three other factories have complained about compensation packages provided to them by the government.
Benoh Apparel workers sit outside the abandoned factory in January. Workers from Benoh and three other factories have complained about compensation packages provided to them by the government. Pha Lina

Payouts raise concerns for garment workers at shuttered factories

Garment workers from four factories have raised concerns over compensation packages prepared by the Labour Ministry and posted on the walls of the factories, claiming the allotments do not match how much was owed to them.

In February, the ministry announced that it set aside $4.6 million to pay severance workers at nine garment factories that were abruptly shuttered and whose owners absconded. The announcement came shortly after the Taiwanese owner of Yu Fa garment factory in Por Sen Chey district shut down the factory and fled while workers were listening to a speech by Prime Minister Hun Sen.

After announcing last week that workers from four factories – Benoh Apparel, Yu Fa Garment Industry, Great Honour Textile Factory and Chung Fai Knitwear – will be compensated before Khmer New Year, the Labour Ministry posted the compensation amounts at each of the companies on Friday.

However, workers have claimed calculations carried out by them and local unions don’t match amounts proposed by ministrys documents.

Roeum Saoleap, a worker from Benoh Apparel, said it was disappointing to see that she will receive only $41 after working nine years in the factory, pointing out that she has been on six-month contracts for that duration.

Short-term contracts are an issue that continues to plague the sector, with rights advocates saying their overuse violates the Labour Law.

Benoh ceased operations in November and gave workers $60 for what they said would be a two-month work suspension, promising to open again in January. But when workers returned, they found the owners had deserted the factory.

“Many workers at Benoh now get from $17 to $45 in compensation . . . Unions helped me to calculate that I get around $3,000, but in the list from the Ministry of Labour I get only $41,” Saoleap said.

A fellow worker, Sok Ley, also said there were irregularities in the records and calculations, noting some workers who had left the factory were also listed as receiving compensation.

Compensation for workers takes into consideration five factors: unpaid salary, annual leave, indemnity for dismissal, compensation for failing to provide a notification period and other damages.

Keoun Chivin, a worker at Chung Fai, said the ministry’s calculations only considered the first three factors, ignoring the last two. She claimed arrears of around $2,600 but is slated to receive $1,504. “We’re disappointed, as what we heard from the prime minister’s promise was that we’ll get all the payment according to the law,” she said.

“The ministry responded . . . that the budget the government has is to cover over 4,000 workers so they can’t provide everything accurately and they tried their best to pay that amount.”

Labour Ministry spokesman Heng Sour could not be reached.

Ath Thorn, president of Cambodian Labour Confederation, said the committee in charge of calculations probably did not get accurate documents for all the workers, especially those on short-term contracts.

“That is why we always ask to join in the committee to be involved in the calculation process and provide accurate payment to workers,” he said.

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