Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - PM vows to halt surprise factory closings




PM vows to halt surprise factory closings

Prime Minister Hun Sen poses with garment workers attending a speech in Phnom Penh yesterday. Facebook
Prime Minister Hun Sen poses with garment workers attending a speech in Phnom Penh yesterday. Facebook

PM vows to halt surprise factory closings

Prime Minister Hun Sen on Wednesday pledged his commitment to preventing garment factory owners from escaping their obligations to workers by closing their factories without warning, even as the current lack of a formal system for dealing with such situations has left at least one group of affected workers in seeming limbo.

Speaking to more than 10,000 garment workers in Phnom Penh’s Por Sen Chey district yesterday, the prime minister said a long-term solution would prevent owners from fleeing the country without having paid severance to their workers when their factories shuttered.

He repeated his February promise to pay $4.6 million from the state coffers to cover unpaid salaries and severance for workers from nine factories whose owners had fled, and said employers should have to pay a deposit to the bank if there were irregularities in their paying of workers.

“Once the employers have fled, we are responsible,” he said, alleging that some such employers went broke “gambling and then fled”.

“But the government needs to be responsible.”

The deposits plan echoes one long floated by labour rights advocates, which the Ministry of Labour recently pledged to put into force. It would require factory owners to make severance payments incrementally into an account that would be used to reimburse workers should their factory abruptly close.

At present, officials typically sell shuttered factories’ assets to cover back pay, but workers and advocates have said the proceeds are rarely enough to cover the entire sum.

However, workers at Por Sen Chey district’s Yu Fa Garment Industry factory, which closed unexpectedly in February and whose owner fled, said that they were resisting the option of selling off the factory’s assets out of fear of being short-changed. Instead, they are hoping to receive their full pay under the government’s $4.6 million pledge, though officials have so far declined to say which nine factories are eligible.

Yu Fa worker Sen Sambath, 35, said unions had assured them that they were among the nine factories.

“We used to bargain about selling the factory’s assets, but after prime minister announced that the government offers $4.6 million, we can’t sell those assets,” she said.

She explained that other factories – such as Yu Fa’s sister factories SRE Garment Co Ltd and Yu Da, which also shuttered – had only received about 60 percent of their final salary and none of their severance from the proceeds of the assets sale. The government, she said, now considered those two conflicts as resolved – a plight she and her colleagues didn’t want to face.

“That’s why we don’t accept selling the factory’s assets,” she said.

William Conklin, of labour rights organisation Solidarity Centre, said those fears were “understandable” as the list of nine factories remained undisclosed.

“It’d be good for the government to assure [publicly] that they are part of the nine factories,” he said, suggesting the Labour Ministry meet with the workers.

Though he believed the government would pay out the promised $4.6 million, he said better solutions should be found. “The government can’t pay out all the time, it’s not sustainable,” he said.

And despite agreeing that in general a deposit might help alleviate the problem, he said this might be difficult to implement.

Suth Chet, a union organiser at the Cambodian Unions Movement of Workers, said the government was too slow in giving out the promised payment. “Workers from Yu Fa factory were looking forward to get their severance compensated, but they still have not received it yet,” he said. “It’s close to Khmer New Year now and workers do not have money to cover it.”

Ath Thorn, president of union C.CAWDU, complained that his union had submitted a letter to the Labour Ministry asking for an official list of the nine factories, but hadn’t heard back.

Labour Ministry spokesperson Heng Sour did not respond to requests for comments.

Additional reporting by Leonie Kijewski

MOST VIEWED

  • School reopening to be postponed until November

    Minister of Education Hang Chuon Naron on Tuesday wrote to Prime Minister Hun Sen requesting a delay of school reopening across the Kingdom until November, when the new academic year begins. In his letter, Chuon Naron said the postponement is warranted to avoid the new

  • Foreigners in Kingdom must now register in FPCS system

    The Ministry of Interior’s General Department of Immigration (GDI) announced that it would not grant visa extensions to foreigners staying in Cambodia if their names are not listed on the Foreigners Present in Cambodia System (FPCS) by July 1. Foreign nationals can register in the

  • Covid-19 at ‘alarming rate’, health ministry says

    The Covid-19 risk level for individual transmission is at an “alarming rate” in the Kingdom and its probability is “not low”, warned Health Ministry spokesperson Or Vandine. “Cambodia’s coronavirus scenario is classified as being at an early stage of the pandemic because of ongoing

  • Mandatory quarantine for 30,000 workers begins

    Some of the roughly 30,000 workers from factories and enterprises across the Kingdom who went on leave during Khmer New Year began their government-imposed 14-day quarantine on Monday. Speaking at a press conference while visiting workers at the Phnom Penh Special Economic Zone on Monday, Ministry

  • Unemployed to get $40 per month

    The Ministry of Labour and Vocational Training has instructed enterprises, business owners and travel agencies in five provinces to prepare the proper forms for the suspension of employment contracts. This, it said, will make it easier for the ministry to transfer $40 a month to workers

  • Gov’t travel ban flouted

    While the majority of Cambodians have paid heed to Prime Minister Hun Sen’s order to stay put and not travel during the Khmer New Year – the holidays of which were also postponed – several hundred have left Phnom Penh nonetheless. They have allegedly breached provincial

  • G20 energy ministers struggle to finalise oil output cuts

    Top oil producers struggled to finalise production cuts during a virtual summit held by Group of 20 (G20) energy ministers on Friday, despite US President Donald Trump’s mediation efforts to end a standoff with Mexico. The final G20 communique appeared to gloss over simmering divisions

  • Kingdom revises travel restriction order

    The government on Friday eased the district and provincial border restrictions issued on Thursday. People are now allowed to cross districts within their provinces. Phnom Penh and Kandal province are to be treated as a single region where people are allowed to travel freely. In

  • Private schools struggling

    The Cambodian Higher Education Association has claimed that 113 private educational establishments are facing bankruptcy because of their inability to pay rent and staff salaries in light of nationwide school closures caused by the Covid-19 outbreak. It said the financial trouble started when the Ministry of

  • Khmer New Year holidays postponed

    In an effort to halt Covid-19 infections in the Kingdom, Prime Minister Hun Sen has postponed the Khmer New Year holidays scheduled from April 13 to 16. While the people will not have their usual break, nor will there be any public celebrations or gatherings at pagodas,