Garment workers on strike in Phnom Penh are defying an ultimatum made by some of their employers ordering them to return to work within 48 hours or lose their jobs.
Thousands of workers from Seduno Investment Cambo Fashion and W&D factory have been on strike over the last week. They are demanding the companies pay their seniority indemnity and severance benefits.
According to the Labour Ministry, factories must pay workers a seniority payment every six months; factories must also pay severance upon conclusion of an employment contract.
Last week, some of the workers blocked Monireth Boulevard, Street 217 and National Road 2, prompting an intervention from the authorities.
The striking garment workers are now occupying their respective factory compounds in Dangkor and Meanchey districts.
Bun Samnang, a representative of W&D garment factory workers, yesterday said the ultimatum was delivered to his group during a meeting with his company.
“We were told to return to work within 48 hours,” Mr Samnang said. “If not, the company will terminate our contracts without compensation.”
He added that despite the warning, more than one thousand workers will not return to work until they have their benefits.
“We don’t accept this because we do not believe – nor have confidence in the company that they will pay our seniority indemnity,” Mr Samnang said. “We are in fact afraid of losing our jobs, but we do have choices.”
Meanwhile, workers from Seduno Investment Cambo Fashion in Dangkor district, are continuing their strike in order to demand for their benefits.
A worker yesterday said the company told them to return to work within 48 hours or be terminated, noting that only about 100 workers from her group have so far returned.
“Only about 100 workers returned to work, while most of us have not returned to work because we are afraid the company will not follow through on their promises,” the worker said.
Labour Ministry spokesman Heng Sour yesterday said that he agreed with the companies in issuing the 48-hour ultimatum.
Mr Sour said workers who do not return to work could lose their jobs.
“Actually, 90 percent of workers have returned to work – others who did not will face losing their jobs,” he said. “We found that the workers were persuaded to conduct the strike and block roads by [an instigator]. The authorities are now looking into this.”
Mr Sour’s statement echoes that of a statement made by the Cambodian Council of National Unions issued on Tuesday.
“After an investigation, we found that the demonstrators were incited by someone looking to take advantage of the strikes,” said CCNU president Sam Soeun. “There are those who are intending to cause instability within these enterprises by destroying workplaces.”