Cambodian Garment Workers Protest After Factories Shut Operations
Thu, April 22, 2021

Cambodian Garment Workers Protest After Factories Shut Operations

Five hundred garment workers of garment and textile factory Sees Global (KH) Limited in Kandal and 200 workers of garment factory Hong Xing in Meanchey are staging protests after the two respective factories shut their operations / Photo by: shankar s. via Flickr

 

Five hundred garment workers of garment and textile factory Sees Global (KH) Limited in Kandal and 200 workers of garment factory Hong Xing in Meanchey are staging protests after the two respective factories shut their operations. Sees Global sold its company to another firm while Hong Xing announced its closure, reported Cambodia news provider Khmer Times.

 

Protest Against Sees Global

Seang Rithy, president of the Cambodian Youth Power Union League, said that out of the 700 garment workers of Sees Global, 500 of them have been protesting since December 14 to seek compensation from the management. He added that the company announced its closure in November and made known that a new owner is planning to set up a factory in another part of Kandal province.

The CYPUL president added that when Sees Global announced that it will be shutting down its operations, it did not inform the workers about the compensations and other benefits that they will receive and it caused the daily protests. Although it is already closing down the factory, the company cannot escape its responsibility of paying its workers, he said further.

Sees Global previously built an in-house union but such did not defend the rights of their workers. If there is no solution given to the workers on strike, they are planning to escalate the matter to the prime minister of Cambodia in the hope of intervention. Rithy said that a group of men previously attacked the protesters, causing injuries to three workers. “We do not know who they are,” he explained, adding that they went into the protest site to disrupt by arguing with the workers before hitting some of them. 

Rithy pointed out that if the company intends to close down the factory and operate in another area, they suggest that the new management will intervene in their case. Khmer Times said that they could not reach Sees Global as of the moment to hear their side.

The Province’s Chief of Labor Resolution Section for Intervention

The provincial labor office’s chief of labor resolution section Lim Sarum explained that their department is still meeting with the representatives of the Sees Global garment workers as well as the company. Since both sides have not agreed on any issue yet, they have not arrived with the solution. Sarum explained that they are collecting documents to determine whether the company is indeed in the wrong or not.
For now, Sarum has appealed to the garment workers to stop their protest, “keep calm,” and give officials the time needed to arrive at a solution. It is difficult to intervene if the workers and the company continue being hostile, the chief said.

Seang Rithy, president of the Cambodian Youth Power Union League, said that out of the 700 garment workers of Sees Global, 500 of them have been protesting since December 14 to seek compensation from the management / Photo by: Cambodia, P.I. Network via Flickr

 

Protest Over Unpaid Wages for Hong Xing Workers

On the part of Hong Xing workers, nearly 200 of them are demanding that the company gives them their wages as well as seniority benefits. Garment worker Hin Sokroeun narrated that the company only gave the workers $100 each and eventually announced its closure. This caused the protest because a part of their November salaries and seniority benefits are missing. 

The garment workers said that they were just told that the factory doors will now be closed. Out of fear that the company will move their machines and goods without paying them their missing wages, the workers have been sleeping in front of the factory and then holding a protest in the morning.

Sokroeun stated that Hong Xing simply told the workers that they will be hiring new employees to work in their factory but no news has been heard since then. She also said that the Labor Ministry and local authorities have already received petitions from the workers.

Stung Meanchey commune police chief Captain Em Pheary said that police officers have been monitoring the factory and protecting the workers who are protesting. Cambodia Workers Labor Federation Union’s legal official Chin Sony likewise commented that Hong Xing company is owned by a Chinese national. He said that workers have no choice as of the moment but to sleep in front of the factory although it does not look good, especially that most of them are females.

Minimum Monthly Wage for Garment Workers

The University of Delaware Department of Fashion and Apparel Studies’ associate professor Dr. Sheng Lu shared what the wage level for garment workers in the world is in 2017. It includes the following: USA ($1,864), South Korea ($1,251), Turkey ($933), Panama ($705), Honduras ($650), Thailand ($632), Malaysia ($ 557), Guatemala ($ 539), Egypt ($ 538), Peru($ 495), El Salvador ($413), Tunisia ($404), Philippines ($372), Pakistan ($320), China ($270), India ($255), Vietnam ($ 248), Indonesia ($231), Mexico ($207), Bangladesh ($197), and Sri Lanka ($194).

Lu, however, explained that a higher wage level does not necessarily mean more decent pay.

Compromise and negotiation are part of employment relationships. Whatever decision will be arrived at in both cases may show a balance of employers' and workers' rights.