Prime Minister Hun Sen yesterday called on Cambodian Labour Confederation president Ath Thorn to stop encouraging garment workers to protest and demand unreasonable seniority indemnity payments.
Speaking during a graduation ceremony in Phnom Penh, Mr Hun Sen appealed to Mr Thorn to have workers stop demanding seniority payments be paid in a lump sum rather than in two instalments as provided for by the labour law.
“I appeal to Ath Thorn to inform his members to understand the issue and accept what is provided for under the law,” he said.
Mr Hun Sen said under the labour law, factories only need to pay workers indemnity payments twice per year.
“We have already calculated that if the payments are paid all at once, factories will have to fork out a total of $2 billion,” he said. “If the factory owners have to pay out $2 billion all at once, they will be forced to close down their operations.”
Yesterday morning, more than 300 W&D Garment Factory workers protested near Mr Hun Sen’s home to demand that the factory reinstate all workers who were sacked after previous protests to demand lump-sum indemnity payments.
About 1,800 workers had held a series of protests for the payments, after which they were fired and re-hired, except for 20 accused of incitement; the majority of those re-hired have refused to return to work unless the 20 accused of incitement are also allowed to return.
Saing Chanry, a workers’ representative who joined the protest, yesterday appealed to Mr Hun Sen to intervene in the matter.
“We have stopped demanding that indemnity payment be paid in a lump sum and Samdech [Hun Sen] has received unreliable information from subordinates that we are still doing so,” she said.
Ms Chanry said that the workers only want the company to allow all of them back without discrimination.
Mr Thorn yesterday said more than a thousand W&D workers are still holding occasional protests for the company to take back everyone.
On Mr Hun Sen’s call for him to stop workers from demanding the indemnity payments, he said he thinks that perhaps the Minister of Labour gave a wrong report to the Prime Minister.
He said that although the W&D workers had previously demanded for seniority indemnity payments, they stopped doing so in January after they were told that it was against the law.
“We are concerned that somebody has reported to the Prime Minister that the workers have been protesting for three months to demand seniority indemnity payments, but in fact they stopped doing so and are only protesting to demand that the company also take back the remaining workers,” he said.
Last week, a representative of W&D company said it lost about $1 million after its workers held rallies over the previous two months.
Company general manager Jimmy Hsu said during a press conference that the company’s loss is attributed to a dip in productivity during rallies in January and February.
The company noted that since December 24, 1,729 workers staged protests, and 814 workers have since returned to work.