Over 1,000 garment workers descended on the Labor Ministry headquarters yesterday calling for help in getting their jobs back after striking for over half a month and being fired on Tuesday.
Pav Sina, president of the Collective Union of Movement of Workers (CUMW), said that about 1,800 workers were fired from Hong Sen Textile (Cambodia) Company and told to apply again if they wanted their jobs back.
Mr. Sina said they went on strike for $12 per month for transportation and 50 cents per day for lunch.
The protesters came from Hong Sen Textile and its subsidiary Yuan Da Rong Fong (Cambodia). Only workers from the Hong Sen Textile had been fired. Mr. Sina said there are about 3,000 employees at both factories, and they supply children and adult shirts for Puma and Adidas.
Mr. Sina said he has already reported the strike and mass firing to the buyers and urged them to put pressure on the factory’s owner.
The Takeo provincial court issued a warrant ordering all employees back to work on October 29. The court said they would effectively be giving up their jobs if they failed to comply. The workers refused to return to work and the company fired them.
“If they want to work for the company again, they have to sign a new contract with new ID cards, so they will become new workers, and lose all seniority,” Mr. Sina said.
“They fired us yesterday [Tuesday]. When we get our wages for the last month, they will take our ID card,” said 35-year-old garment worker Sok Dalin. She has worked at the factory for two years and refuses to exchange her company ID card for her monthly wage.
“We want to get our old positions, and we will protest until we get a solution. If we become new workers, we are going to lose many benefits,” Ms. Dalin said.
Fired worker Buth Sarom said, “I got the last wage, and they told us to work for the company as new employees, but to sign new contracts today. I did not agree to do this. We knew that when we picked up our wages we would be fired, but we still took them because we were worried that we would get nothing.”
Deputy secretary-general of the committee for the resolution of strikes Tes Rukhaphal said his committee was going to hold a meeting with the factory owner this evening. He will meet with the workers today.
He stressed that the company was just following the court’s decision, yet he was dissatisfied with how the company handled the situation.
“We do not encourage employers to fire hundreds of workers like this, it will not be good for the workers or factories,” he said. “We will coordinate between both sides to find a good solution. We want them to give concessions to each other because they will work together in the future.”
He added that the protesters’ demand for extra benefits was not in any law, so the government could not force the company to give them any extra money for transportation or lunch.
“If the companies give us $9 per month for transportation and $0.25 per day for lunch, we will agree, but the companies never resolved this for us,” garment worker Ms. Sarom said.
The Labor Ministry said they want the company to reinstate all of the workers once negotiations between both sides finish, but the employer has yet to agree.