The Labour Ministry yesterday said it would be taking strong action in cooperation with court and police officials against garment factory owners who flee without paying workers their dues.
The ministry’s announcement came after Prime Minister Hun Sen recently ordered the Labour Minister to speed up resolutions for thousands of garment workers that had been abandoned by their employers in Phnom Penh.
“The Ministry of Labour will take immediate action on all cases in which factory owners fled without paying workers’ wages and bonuses on time,” the ministry said in a statement yesterday. “The ministry will confiscate the property of the factories to sell off to pay for workers pay or to put back into the state budget.”
Mr Hun Sen on Wednesday said the government was prepared to pay about $4.6 million to 4,146 workers whose bosses recently ran away, meaning each worker would get about $1,000. The money will be doled out to workers beginning next week.
“I want all workers whose employers fled to know that the government will give them a cash advance. We have $4.6 million ready to pay those workers,” Mr Hun Sen said.
The National Employment Agency will find new jobs for the workers who lost their jobs, he added.
The Labour Ministry added yesterday it would also take legal action against those who advised owners or company representatives to shut down their factories and flee.
“The Ministry of Labour and the Committee for the Settlement of Strikes and Demonstrations will cooperate with judicial police and court officials to summon or arrest any owners or company representatives who violate the law by abandoning the company and workers,” it said.
The Labour Ministry said it would set up regulations for factory owners to guarantee that wages and bonuses are paid to workers.
Labour Ministry spokesman Heng Sour said late last month that employers cannot escape without paying workers.
“I would like to confirm that those employers who escape from Cambodia will face lawsuits in court over their debts,” he said.
Mr Sour also floated the idea of ordering owners to pay workers their wages bi-weekly rather than monthly to mitigate the risks of missing wages if employers went bankrupt.
“When the workers get paid their wages twice per month, at least this can reduce some risks when their employers escape,” he said.
Far Saly, president of the National Trade Unions Coalition, said it was good for the ministry to take action, but it was a bit late because there were many cases of owners having run away without paying workers.
“As far as I know, factories have closed without paying workers for more than 10 years, but it keeps happening again and again,” said Mr Saly. “I welcome this action by the ministry, but why does it always take orders from Prime Minister Hun Sen to get ministries to do their work?”