About 4,000 employees at one of Asia’s largest garment-processing factories have stopped work, as union workers demand the company sever ties with a shareholder who ordered a military police presence there.
Workers at SL Garment Processing (Cambodia) Ltd began demonstrating on Monday, about two weeks after shareholder Meas Sotha ordered military police to stand guard inside the factory, said Kong Athit, vice-president of the Cambodian Apparel Workers Democratic Union (C.CAWDU), which represents employees at SL.
“[Sotha] guaranteed the owner that he can destroy C.CAWDU,” Athit, who insisted the military police presence was an effort to intimidate union workers, said.
He added that along with seven other demands, workers want the military police to leave and for SL to sever all ties with Sotha.
Defending their presence, Sotha said military police were brought to the factory to maintain the workers’ safety.
“They came to protect the workers and the company,” Sotha said, adding that he had no intention of expelling C.CAWDU from SL. “I never consider the workers and union officials to be my enemies.”
Ken Loo, secretary general of the Garment Manufacturers Association in Cambodia, yesterday said that only about 500 workers were demonstrating, but they blocked another 3,500 from entering.
“The owner of the factory has every right to utilise whatever security forces it has access to,” Loo said.