More than 200 workers at a company connected to Thai firm K Cement downed tools yesterday and protested in front of the factory in Kampot province, demanding major pay increases and for fired unionists to be reinstated.
Ty Yann, secretary of the Building and Wood Workers Trade Union Confederation (BWTUC), said workers were protesting against Banjamat Construction Company’s alleged discrimination against union members.
Yann said that since employees and BWTUC leaders Chhun Pov and Tep Mao were fired by K Cement subsidiary Banjamat in November 2010, just a month after forming a union, other unionists have feared similar treatment.
“In fact, the [provincial] court and Arbitration Council ordered K Cement factory to [reinstate] the workers . . . but the company did not agree. It makes other workers fear that the company discriminates against the union,” he said.
Banjamat’s offers in 2012 to reinstate Pov and Mao on six-month contracts and with new roles, which included tending to chickens five kilometres away from the factory gates, were slammed by BWTUC.
According to Yann, the workers on strike yesterday wanted the company to increase their meagre monthly wage of between $70 and $80 to $130. They also called for holiday pay, long-term contracts and for general working conditions to be improved, he said.
One protesting employee, Chan Bopha, said workers are also forced to work in dangerous conditions.
“Some of the workers are women . . . the company [should] stop ordering women to work at dangerous heights.”
Another enraged worker, Sin Bony, said union action is crucial for workers’ rights.
“We need the union to defend our rights in the work place,” Bony said.
Hon Sereyvuth, deputy police commander of Kampot town, said the demonstration passed without violence.
“The protest did not get violent and police were there to [make sure it stayed] safe,” he said.
Representatives of K Cement and Banjamat Construction Company could not be reached for comment.