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As workdays dry up, fears of factory calling it quits

Great Honor Textile Factory employees wait outside the Kandal Provincial Town Hall yesterday morning.
Great Honor Textile Factory employees wait outside the Kandal Provincial Town Hall yesterday morning. Kong Meta

As workdays dry up, fears of factory calling it quits

Worried their employer is going out of business, workers at a long-running Kandal garment factory have asked provincial authorities to ensure they receive their legal payouts, though the company maintains it is not shutting down.

Dozens of workers from Great Honor Textile Factory, which employs 1,014 people and has run for 17 years, visited Kandal Provincial Town Hall yesterday.

It is the fourth time employees have sought the governor’s help with the company, which ended a two-month paid shutdown in January and has since reduced shifts, amid a continuing dearth in orders.

“We went to work for a day [after the shutdown], and we got two days off. How can we get enough salary to make a living?” said 44-year-old line manager Thou Yuna, who has been with the company 15 years.

“We want to know whether the company will be able to provide us with tasks or not and we would still like to be paid our seniority bonuses.”

Noting the Chinese-owned factory had hit hard times, Provincial Governor Mao Phirun reassured the group, saying he would forward the case to the Ministry of Labour. “The factory will not fire the workers, or they will need to pay for their seniority bonuses,” Phearum said.

“If there is work for them; they will call workers to the factory,” he said.

Though acknowledging some machines had been moved into storage, Lim Vegh, Great Honor’s administrative chief, denied the factory would close, blaming low orders on seasonal shifts in demand.

He calculated the company would need to pay workers more than $2 million in entitlements if it shut down.

“If we do that . . . it would kill us, because at the moment, the company is not a good sale,” he said.

Joel Preston, from labour rights group Central, said the company, and a sister factory, had suffered a drop in orders after clothing giant H&M stopped sourcing from their parent firm China Key.

He said there had been three Arbitration Council rulings ordering the factory to pay at least $50,000 in withheld suspension pay to workers.

“It seems like there is a lot owed to workers. It would not surprise me if they close to avoid liability,” Preston said.

Ek Sopheakdey, secretary of the Cambodian Apparel Workers Democratic Union, said workers were nervous.

“The workers see people measuring the land; they’re worried the company will be sold,” he said.

Additional reporting by Shaun Turton

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