Garment Workers Demand Cambodian Government Resolve Employment Issue

cambodia-garment-factory-strike-kampong-chhnang-june-2014.jpg Garment factory workers at Bloomsfield (Cambodia) Knitters Ltd. in central Cambodia's Kampong Chhnang province go on strike, June 2014.

More than 500 striking garment workers from a factory in central Cambodia petitioned the parliament and Labor Ministry on Monday, demanding that government officials intervene in stopping their company from firing workers without cause.

The workers from the Hong Kong-owned Bloomsfield (Cambodia) Knitters Ltd. factory in Kampong Tralach district, Kampong Chhnang province, accuse managers of firing 25 workers as revenge for striking in August.

During the strike last month, workers demanded that the factory stop firing colleagues and issue long-term employment contracts.

Neal Sarath, a worker at the factory, said the company has terminated workers without cause or advanced notice.

“The factory must respect labor law,” he said, adding that the workers would continue to strike if there is no solution.

Yong Leap, an official from the Free Trade Union who is helping the striking workers to try to resolve the issue, said about 200 of the striking workers protested in front of the National Assembly and Ministry of Labor, after police prevented some of them from going to the capital Phnom Penh.

The factory, which produces men’s and women’s knitted sweaters, now offers only contracts of one to three months, and most workers are terminated if they fail to produce enough apparel to fulfill work orders or work extra hours as requested by the factory, she said.

“We want a work contract of between six months to a year or without term limits,” Yong Leap said.

Managers at the factory also are terminating pregnant women instead of paying the ones who have worked there at least a year 50 percent of their salaries and any in-kind benefits while they are on maternity leave, as the country’s labor law requires, she said.

Employers must grant pregnant women 90 days of maternity leave, and male employees one day for fatherhood.  During maternity leave, the companies must maintain a woman’s position, wage and seniority.

Managers at Bloomsfield also often force the workers to work overtime even though they refuse to do so, as such additional work is done on a voluntary basis, she said.

RFA could not reach factory management for comment.

Strikes are routine

The workers struck in August to protest against Bloomsfield for firing employees without cause, and also in June 2014 after five others were let go.

Cambodia’s garment workers routinely strike over employer abuses, low wages and poor work conditions.

In mid-July, about 500 workers from three garment factories demonstrated outside the Labor Ministry, demanding that government officials intervene in their campaign for better working conditions and food and transportation subsidies.

The workers from two factories owned by the company Akeentex in Phnom Penh and one owned by Sixplus in southern Cambodia’s Kandal province submitted petitions asking government officials to intervene because their factories refused to meet their demands for subsidies about a week ago.

The median take-home pay of Cambodian garment workers in a typical month is U.S. $191, higher than the U.S. $128 minimum wage, but lower than what employers have claimed, according to a report released Friday, The Cambodia Daily reported.

Minimum wage negotiations between garment factory unions, employers and government are scheduled to begin on Wednesday, the newspaper said.

Reported by Serey Mony and Samean Yun for RFA’s Khmer Service. Translated by Samean Yun. Written in English by Roseanne Gerin.


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