PM supports fired W&D garment factory workers

Phnom Penh: Prime Minister Hun Sen yesterday appealed to the owners of W&D Garment Company to allow more than 1,000 garment factory workers to return to work after they were fired for holding a strike that started in December.

Mr Hun Sen yesterday said that he has spoken with Labour Minister Ith Samheng to facilitate their return to the company’s factory.

“I appeal to W&D to allow the workers to return to work because they are no longer demanding for seniority indemnity, they are demanding to return to work,” he said. “All sides must understand each other. Workers must not make excessive demands and hold strikes.”

Mr Hun Sen added that the demands of the workers were illegal and that they were persuaded by an unnamed person to conduct the strikes.

Last week, Mr Hun Sen called on Cambodian Labour Confederation President Ath Thorn to stop urging garment workers to conduct strikes.

Shortly after the call, CLC released a statement denying the allegation.

“The demand for seniority indemnity for workers stopped in January,” it said. “Workers are now requesting CLC to intervene in order for them to be allowed back to work.”

Saing Chanry, a garment worker, yesterday said 1,127 garment factory workers who used to work for W&D agreed with Mr Hun Sen’s appeal.

“We hope that the Prime Minister’s appeal can help finish this labour dispute soon,” Ms Chanry said. “His speech gave us hope about returning to work.”

“We have been negotiating with the Labour Ministry and the company, but the company refuses to allow us to return,” she added. “They accused us of [failing to comply] with a court order.”

The workers were demanding their seniority payments to be paid before the end of the year. The company refused and together with the Phnom Penh Municipal Court, the company issued a 48 hours ultimatum telling the workers to return to work or be fired.

A handful of them did not comply and were fired doing so, prompting the workers to return to the streets in solidarity for their fired colleagues.

They have since been rallying for their jobs and are attempting to negotiate with the company and the ministry to allow for their return.

Last week, the ministry announced it is continuing to work with the workers and noted that unions should avoid committing activities that are counter-productive to the talks held with the workers.

In a statement, W&D said it has lost $1.2 million from January to February due to the strike and demonstrations.

In it the company said it was willing to allow the workers to return, but they will have to reapply as a new worker.

The move was denounced by the workers, saying that some would lose years’ worth of unpaid benefits.