After failing for the past three months to receive seniority indemnity and other benefits, on Monday some 200 W&D Cambodia workers gathered in front of Prime Minister Hun Sen’s house in Phnom Penh to request he help resolve the ongoing labour dispute.
Saing Chanry – one of the six representatives for the 1,104 workers sacked by the factory after their roles in a more than week-long demonstration from December 24 to January 1 – said they now wanted the protest to end.
She told The Post on Monday that the workers wanted the company to give them their seniority indemnity and be allowed to return to their previous jobs without discrimination against gender, age or being pregnant.
“The factory fired worker representatives and filed lawsuits against them for inciting workers to protest at the court. It was very unfair for worker representatives. We cannot accept the accusation, so the garment workers continued to protest, seeking the factory to rehire them without any discrimination,” she said.
Relevant officials from the Ministry of Labour and Vocational Training and factory representatives met with the workers on Monday in an attempt to find a resolution.
Chheng Sokunthea, an administration assistant at W&D Cambodia, told protesters that the factory wanted to arrange a meeting with Ministry of Labour officials and worker representatives on Tuesday evening.
“I speak on behalf of the factory’s owner. We would like a meeting to resolve the issue on Tuesday at 3pm at the Ministry of Labour, with a limit of six worker representatives to prevent public disorder,” Sokunthea said.
The worker representatives told The Post they would attend Tuesday’s meeting.
Representative Vit Van told The Post on Monday that after the more than week-long protest, the factory issued an ultimatum supported by Phnom Penh Municipal Court on December 31 for all workers to return to their jobs within 48 hours.
Following the court order the workers returned on January 2.
However, on the evening of January 4, the factory issued a list of workers who had been sacked.
“We protested once more because the factory did not follow the court order and fired the workers, without giving them seniority indemnity and other benefits."
“We don’t want to protest anymore. We want the factory to allow the workers to return to their jobs and pay them seniority indemnity every six months in accordance with Ministry of Labour directive 443,” Van said.
W&D Cambodia in Phnom Penh’s Meanchey district employs 1,729 garment workers. The factory hired more than 200 workers to re-establish production during the protests.
Hem Hoeurn, a senior Ministry of Labour official, said the ministry had tried on numerous occasions to find a resolution to the dispute but had yet to be successful.
“After failing to reach a resolution, the ministry sent the case to the Arbitration Council. While the Arbitration Council was reviewing the case, the factory filed a complaint at the court against 20 workers for inciting people to protest."
“The issue has reached the court stage, so the ministry [of labour] has no authority to intervene. The ministry can only help facilitate in the matter,” he added.