Subscribe Search

Search form

Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Strikers used as ‘slave labour’

Strikers used as ‘slave labour’

Strikers used as ‘slave labour’

Garment workers protest yesterday morning outside the Taiwanese-owned Meroson Cambodia Co Ltd factory in Thlok Village, Kouk Roka Commune, in Phnom Penh’s Dangkor district.

About 500 of the 600 garment makers at Meroson Cambodia Co Ltd went on strike yesterday, accusing the Taiwanese-owned firm which exports T-shirts to North America of using them as “slave labour”.

“This Chinese factory has always violated Cambodian laws. It has also violated workers’ rights by forcing staff to work on public holidays and to work overtime,” said Chey Sovan, vice-president of the Cambodian

National Confederation for Labourers’ Protection.

Chey Sovan said that the main reason for the strike at the factory in Kouk Roka commune in the capital’s Dangkor district, was the firing of three workers on October 3 who had been selected by the union to be its representatives on September 18.

He said management did not want the union in the factory because it would expose violations of labour laws.

Sorn To, who said she was fired after joining the union, accused Meroson of forcing pregnant and sick staff to work overtime, and of cutting the salaries of those who took sick leave. “They treat workers like slaves,” she said.

Employee Phoeun Samnang said the company’s recruitment policy targeted uneducated women under the age of 30 and excluded women whose husbands were police officers or soldiers. “They only recruit pretty, young women with no education,” she said.

Union representative Un Dara confirmed workers’ allegations that they had to seek permission to go to the toilet, and that managers timed them when they did.

Dave Welsh, country director of the American Centre for Labour Solidarity, described this as “outrageous”.

“Even in Bangladesh, which has the worst working environment in the garment industry, they don’t do that. So it’s shocking to hear it’s happening here,” he said, adding that it was not the first time he had heard this allegation from garment workers in Cambodia. Staff at Meroson did not respond to requests for comment yesterday.

Touch Phorn, Dangkor district deputy police chief, said police were sent to the factory to protect property and prevent violence. “Police did not try to stop them from striking,” he said, adding that he had asked representatives of Meroson and workers to meet at his office to resolve the dispute.  

The International Labour Organisation monitors the factory as part of its Better Factories Cambodia program. It did not respond to requests for comment yesterday.



  • Kak Channthy, Cambodian Space Project frontwoman, killed in crash at 38 [Updated]

    Updated 5:05pm, Tuesday, March 20, 2018 Kak Channthy, frontwoman of popular The Cambodian Space Project, was killed Tuesday morning in a traffic accident in Phnom Penh. She was 38. Channthy, the internationally recognised singer-songwriter also known as “Srey Thy”, was reportedly travelling in a tuk-tuk on the city's

  • Australian police investigating death threat against Kem Ley's widow

    Updated: 10:17am, Friday March 23, 2018 Australian authorities on Thursday confirmed they have launched an investigation into a crudely written death threat sent tothe family of slain political analyst Kem Ley and Victoria state MP Hong Lim. The typed letter, reported to Victoria police last week, is

  • Apparel groups including H&M and Gap urge Cambodia garment industry reform, seek meeting with Hun Sen

    A group representing some of the largest apparel brands in the US and Europe – including Gap, H&M and ASOS – expressed “growing concern” on Tuesday over several controversial labour laws and ongoing court cases against unionists described as restrictive and unjust. In an open letter

  • Hun Sen says Montagnards don’t exist in Cambodia

    Prime Minister Hun Sen once again attacked ex-opposition leader Sam Rainsy for pledging “autonomy” to Montagnards, claiming – seemingly incorrectly – the ethnic minority does not exist in Cambodia. “We respect all minorities such as Jarai, Steang, Phnong, but we have never had Montagnards,” the premier said