About 1,700 workers at Svay Rieng province’s Lu Thai garment factory have refused to enter the premises for the past two days after one of their representatives was allegedly beaten for attempting to unionise the factory.
The garment workers have stayed away from the factory floor since Monday after worker representative Heun Lyda was beaten by unknown assailants while using the restroom. Workers maintain he was attacked by newly hired workers specifically hired by the factory in order to quash his attempt to form a union, as well as a request he made to remove a factory administrator, Da Ny.
“They beat me on my face and stomach,” Lyda said. “I don’t know the reason why, but it looks like the company wants to discriminate against me. ”Lyda said he had seen the workers involved in the attack before but did not know their names as they had recently joined the factory. He has yet to file a police complaint. “The company just wants to protect the new workers,” he said. “But they do not want to find justice or a solution for me.”
Va Vansey, a factory worker, said she and other workers could hear the beating as it took place in the restroom, and that the incident took everyone by surprise. She added that the factory was reluctant to accept Lyda as their representative and wanted to pick their own union counterpart.
“We need to form a union from the workers we know,” she said. “We don’t want a representative who has been selected by the company. ”However, Ly Bun Hour, who works with the factory’s management, said that they were not opposed to union formation, and denied that the factory was involved in the beating of Lyda. “We are open for them to freely create a union,” he said.
He added that the factory would not pay the workers for the two wasted work days, which it said had resulted in a $500,000 loss for the company. William Conklin, country director for labour advocacy group Solidarity Center, said unions had been facing difficulties in forming unions following passage of the controversial Trade Union Law because of the increased documentation needed, hesitancy from outside unions to assist and fear of reprisals from factory owners.
“In this case, it sounds like the factory has inherited bad practices. Managers have been known to interfere in union activities,” he said.
ADDITIONAL REPORTING BY ANANTH BALIGA