Garment workers seek unpaid wages

Mom Kunthear / Khmer Times No Comments Share:
Unionist Khim Makara leads a protest yesterday outside the Labour Ministry. KT/Mom Kunthear

About 50 garment workers, representing more than 100 colleagues from Heng Xin Textile in Phnom Penh’s Meanchey district, yesterday protested in front of the Labour Ministry over unpaid wages for August and September after the owner shuttered the factory.

Pov Lina, 28, a representative, said the factory closed in early September and the Chinese owner did not compensate them as required under the Labour Law.

“We just want the factory owner to pay us in accordance with the law because the factory closed without informing us and it did not pay us,” she said.

Ms Lina said the workers are facing difficulties in paying for their daily needs and risk being evicted by their landlords over unpaid rentals.

She noted that the workers have been keeping a vigil in front of the factory since it closed to make sure the employer does not remove any equipment.

“We did not go home to celebrate Pchum Ben with our families this year because we did not have money and we were guarding the factory,” Ms Lina said. “We are still keeping a vigil day and night until our issue is resolved.”

She said the workers are demanding severance pay and other benefits in accordance with the Labour Law.

Chak Srey Oun, another worker, yesterday said that if the ministry could not find a swift resolution, the workers will have nowhere to live.

“We are not asking for anything beyond what the Labour Law stipulates,” she said. “We worked for the factory so the employer has to pay us accordingly.”

Ms Srey Oun noted that the workers did not know why the factory closed without informing them in advance.

According to a letter submitted to Labour Minister Ith Samheng, which was obtained yesterday, the workers asked him to intervene and get the factory owner to pay them the owed wages as well as severance pay if the factory has ceased operations.

The letter requested the government to pay them the wages if the factory did not, take legal action against the owner and seize the equipment.

Khim Makara, Coordinator from Coalition of Cambodian Apparel Workers’ Democratic Union, yesterday said ministry officials received the letter from workers and promised to forward it to Mr Samheng for action.

“We will gather again at the ministry next week if the issue is not resolved,” he noted.

Mr Makara added that the workers will continue their vigil in front of the factory until their problem is solved.

“We want the government to take strong action against employers who are able to run a business or open a factory but flee without paying the workers,” he said, adding that the government should have stricter laws to ensure this does not happen.

Khieu Savuth, deputy chief of the Labour Ministry’s labour conflict commission, yesterday said the ministry is seeking a resolution for the workers according to the law.

“The factory owner is in Cambodia but he said he is bankrupt,” he noted.

Mr Savuth said that he did not know how soon the ministry could find a resolution for the workers.

Heng Xin Textile factory officials could not be reached for comment yesterday.

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