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Xing Tai garment workers protest factory conditions

Xing Tai garment workers protest factory conditions

090715_04
Workers from the Xing Tai garment factory protest outside the factory’s gates, calling attention to poor working conditions and the dismissal of the factory’s union representative.

AROUND 350 garment factory workers gathered at the Xing Tai garment factory in Sen Sok district for the second day running Tuesday, protesting poor working conditions at the factory, which they claim include inadequate toilets and hot, windowless workspaces.

Tuesday's protest followed similar demonstrations Monday, which attracted more than 800 workers.

"We have no place to go to the toilet because the drainage system in this factory does not work," Sok Say Eam, 37, said outside the factory Monday.

She added that due to cramped working conditions in the factory, many workers were fainting during their shifts.

Heng Son, 31, who claims she was injured when a fan fell from the ceiling of the factory, said management had been "unaccountable" for the conditions.

She also said the owners had asked staff to work overtime and had fired any worker who refused to work extra hours.

One aim of the protest, she said, was to call for the reinstatement of Va Sophon, the deputy chief of the Coalition of Cambodian Apparel Workers Democratic Union.

Va Sophon, whose organisation represents some Xing Tai workers, said Tuesday that Horm Hav, the factory's chief of administration, had fired him late last year in an attempt to silence worker protests.

"He forced me to replace two administrators who had resigned, but I clearly could not do it. I was dismissed three days later," he said.

He added that the Arbitration Council, an independent mediation body, had ruled in February for the company to reinstate him, but that the company did not accept this agreement and threatened to fire any workers who supported him.

Horm Hav denied the charges, saying that Xing Tai had appealed the February ruling, and that Va Sophon was fired for poor performance.

"We dismissed him because he was not accountable in his role - not because of discrimination against union workers," he said, adding that sanitation at the factory had improved since July 9.

In hearings Monday and Tuesday, the Ministry of Labour's Labour Conflict Resolution Bureau heard the complaints of the Xing Tai workers. But Um Visal, a coalition labour dispute resolution officer, said the company rejected workers' demands.

"I don't think that the company was willing to negotiate and solve the problem with us," he said. "We will call on international union workers to contact the buyers and put pressure on the company if they won't find a solution."

Prum Veasna, a labour conflict official at the bureau, said the dispute would be sent to the Arbitration Council.

ADDITIONAL REPORTING BY ITH SOTHOEUTH

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