Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - W&D garment factory records $1M loss since workers began protesting

W&D garment factory records $1M loss since workers began protesting

Content image - Phnom Penh Post
W&D factory management hold a press conference to find solution to the strike. Photo by Long Kimmarita

W&D garment factory records $1M loss since workers began protesting

The W&D garment factory in the capital’s Meanchey district has reported a loss of more than $1 million since its workers started their protests in December.

The factory owner said it has also lost up to three major buyers out of its 10 overseas ones since more than 1,000 workers went on strike on December 24.

Fielding questions at a press conference on Sunday, the W&D director-general, who only gave his name as Jimmy, said the over $1 million loss was due to late delivery to buyers.

“The direct loss was $850,000 within these two months, and there are other indirect losses such as late delivery to buyers. Transporting by air is costly and when we are late, the buyers impose a fine on us. We don’t know how much exactly, but as per our rough calculation, it is about $1.2 million,” he said.

Kaing Monika, the deputy secretary-general of the Garment Manufacturers Association in Cambodia (GMAC) who also attended the press conference, said the dismissal of the striking workers was actually in line with correct procedures.

He said the company is not legally obliged to meet the demands of workers who had committed serious misconduct.

However, Monika said the factory still sticks to its stance of reinstating workers who re-apply for employment.

“We will rehire them except for a handful of workers who committed activities against public order, like blocking roads and preventing others from going to work. So workers other than them can come back to work by following procedures,” he said.

The workers went on strike on December 24, demanding the factory owner pay them seniority indemnity before implementing a new law that requires a payment of the seniority indemnity every six months.

The company then dismissed 1,104 workers on grounds that the workers failed to follow its court-supported ultimatum that required them to return to work within 48 hours.

The workers responded to the ultimatum by occupying the factory, with their representatives saying they would not give in until their demands are met.

The dispute has lingered on with some workers marching to deliver their petitions to relevant institutions demanding a reinstatement of the sacked workers.

Bun Samnal, one of the dismissed, said the court-supported ultimatum is unjust while a solution is pending.

“Since the strike began, we have not received any solution yet. Why did the court issue an injunction requiring us to return to work within 48 hours when a compromise had not been reached?

“Why didn’t the company speak with us clearly? When they dismissed us, they announced they would rehire only some workers, not all of us. They discriminated against old women, pregnant women and other male workers,” he said.

Ministry of Labour and Vocational Training spokesman Heng Sour told The Post on Sunday that the workers were rightfully dismissed after all means, including a labour dispute resolution by the arbitration council, were exhausted.

He said by law, following arbitration and a court injunction, an employer can dismiss – without compensation – workers who resume their strike against procedures and refuse to return to work as required by the court injunction.

“The ministry has mediated by asking the factory to reinstate almost one thousand workers, but the employer refused to reinstate the masterminds who led the illegal strike, insulted and prevented non-striking workers from going to work,” he said.

Heng Sour said the ministry will continue to mediate with the two parties.

Ath Thorn, the president of the Coalition of Cambodian Apparel Workers’ Democratic Union (C.CAWDU), dismissed the claims by the factory owner and GMAC as an excuse to shirk their responsibilities.

“First it was a small case but the company treated workers badly, so they had no choice but to resume their strike, making the government lose face. So the government should urge the company to reinstate all the workers as they are only demanding their benefits,” he said.

W&D, which started operations in the Kingdom in 1998, employed 1,729 workers prior to the strike. The factory currently has only 814 workers on its payroll.

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