Hundreds of garment workers formerly employed at the Dai Young factory in Phnom Penh’s Russey Keo district protested on Saturday over unpaid March wages in the wake of the owner going bankrupt and fleeing.
Heng Soukea, a union leader at the factory with the Coalition of Cambodian Apparel Workers Democratic Union, said that on Saturday nearly 400 workers protested in front of the factory to demand their March wages and other benefits that have gone unpaid.
“The company was not honest,” he said. “They announced that they would sell off property and pay the workers their dues. But in fact, they just fled their obligation to pay workers’ severance who have worked here more than ten years.”
Mr Soukea said that the company has apparently gone bankrupt.
“We have still not got our last wages,” he said. “We demanded those wages already in the past but have not got them, even after making a formal complaint; that’s why we are protesting now.”
Sou Phalla, a worker at the factory, said that workers think that the owner closed up shop and opened a factory elsewhere.
She said that most of the hundreds of workers worked for the company for at least ten years and want their unpaid March wages, as well as severance.
“The workers are facing challenges in their lives now,” she said. “Some cannot afford to pay for their rent, and their landlords are losing patience.”
A representative for the factory could not be reached for comment yesterday.
According to a statement from Russey Keo district officials, the protesters were advised to hold off on their demonstrations and await a negotiated settlement.
Earlier this year, the Ministry of Labour said that employers who run away from their factories will face lawsuits after some unions complained that many employers leave the country without compensating their employees.
Labour Ministry spokesman Heng Sour said there had been some criticism that employers can leave the country easily, often leaving their workers unpaid.
“It does not mean that employers escape, and those employers have no any obligations. I would like to confirm that those employers who escaped from Cambodia, they have lawsuits at the court over their debts in Cambodia,” he said.
The Ministry of Labour recently said that it is addressing the issue by preparing regulations, including forcing employees to deposit funds with the National Social Security Fund in order to pay out workers if owners disappear.
The Ministry of Labour 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 announcement came after Prime Minister Hun Sen ordered the ministry to speed up resolutions for thousands of garment workers that had been abandoned by their employers.
Last month, the government paid $4.6 million to 4,100 workers who were left jobless and with missing wages after their employers fled.