GARMENT workers from W&D factory in Phnom Penh are due to protest again on Tuesday after the factory’s owner fired some 1,200 employees last week as a result of protests calling for improved conditions.
Protests initially started almost two weeks ago over pay and conditions. The factory subsequently issued an ultimatum – supported by the Phnom Penh Municipal Court – that striking workers return to their jobs within 48 hours or they would be terminated.
The workers responded to the ultimatum by occupying the factory, with representatives saying they would not back down until their demands were met.
Consequently, the factory issued a press release on Friday naming 1,200 workers who had lost their jobs. The factory told the terminated workers they must collect their last wage packet, saying in the statement: “If your name is on the list, please take your wage on Tuesday [January 8] at 3pm.”
‘He will help us’
W&D garment workers representative Bun Kimsan told The Post on Monday that despite the sackings, the workers will not stop protesting until they get an acceptable agreement.
“Tomorrow, we will ask again for what we want. They cannot fire us without giving us more warning. According to the law, they need to inform us 48 hours before doing so, even after the court has issued an order."
“I request Prime Minister Hun Sen’s help. I hope he will help us,” Kimsan said.
On Saturday, the 1,200 W&D workers went on strike again, blocking Street 217 in Mean Chey district’s Stung Meanchey 3 commune in Phnom Penh, as they continued their demands for seniority indemnity and severance benefits.
According to the Labour Ministry, factory owners must pay their workers a seniority payment twice a year in June and December, as well as severance pay upon conclusion of an employment contract.
Collective Union of Movement of Workers (CUMW) president Pav Sina told The Post that it is nothing new for companies to use the court system to pressure and fire protesting workers.
If employers continue to use the courts in such a way, he said, it will negatively impact workers’ rights and protests will increase.
He asked for all parties involved, especially government ministries, to take action and find a better solution for the workers.
“Workers protested and demanded that the company increase their severance pay. They’ve only just started protesting and now they have been fired from their jobs."
“All relevant parties should come to the negotiation table to find solutions. The company should not use the court system to fire the workers,” he said.
Labour Ministry spokesman Heng Sour told The Post on Monday that companies generally hire striking workers back “if they didn’t destroy company property, block entrances or threaten other workers”.
He said the ministry will work with employers to solve this issue, even using the national budget if the company is unable to pay workers.
“The government ensures that garment workers will not lose their benefits if the company folds. They should not worry about their severance pay, ” Sour said.
The owner of W&D factory could not be reached for comment on Monday.