Saturday, February 25, 2012

Workers attack factory

A fourth day of protests by garment workers in Kampong Cham turned unruly yesterday, as nearly 2,000 workers shattered the windows of their factory with stones after briefly blocking National Road 7.

The workers blocked the road for about 10 minutes at 9am, before returning to protest in front of the Medtecs (Cambodia) factory in Kampong Siem district’s Manhattan Industrial Garden at 10:30am and began lobbing stones.Workers told the Post they ceased after about 90 minutes when the company agreed to open negotiations with worker representatives.

Chan Nary, 36, who has been employed by the company for more than 10 years, said staff had shouted at them from the building, angering the workers, who seized stones and attempted to throw them at staff.

“The workers were angry when the Chinese staff scoffed at them for protesting, and they were annoyed with the factory boss, who did not agree . . . to find a resolution for them,” she said.

One police official suffered a slight head injury.

The stone-throwing, shattered windows and heavy police presence bore shades of the scene surrounding this week’s shootings at a factory in Svay Rieng province’s Bavet town. But although 400 police and military police were deployed yesterday, they refused to engage protesters.  Some told reporters they did not have guns, electric batons or shields.One police official, who asked not to be named, said their superiors had instructed them “not to use arms and sticks to endanger workers like the incident in Bavet town”.

On Monday, three women were shot by a gunman wearing what witnesses have described as a khaki police-style uniform during a 6,000-strong protest at the Kaoway Sports Ltd factory. 

Authorities say they have identified the assailant, but no arrest has been announced.

Yesterday, workers in Kampong Cham continued to protest for the implementation of a 12-point list of demands.
On Monday, they urged the company to abide by multiple Arbitration Council rulings to implement five of the demands.

Union representatives told the Post on Tuesday that after negotiations with union and Labour Ministry officials, the company had agreed to abide by two demands ordered by the Arbitration Council, and a third in the workers’ list of grievances.Workers defied an Arbitration Council order issued on Wednesday to return to work yesterday as negotiations continued.

In discussions between union representatives, Labour Ministry officials, provincial military police, local authorities and the factory’s owner – attending via phone, the company agreed to pay remaining wages and other benefits within 48 hours to workers dismissed without notice, and within 10 days to those whose contracts were terminated.Sam Seyha, deputy chief of administration at the factory, said that workers should return on Monday as the factory had orders to fill.

“The workers wrongly destroyed the property of the company,” he said, adding that the owner would decide whether to file a lawsuit against them. “The factory boss was so afraid that he dared not attend the negotiation, so he corresponded by phone.”Khiev Savuth, deputy director of the dispute resolution department at the Labour Ministry, said that discussions with unions and workers would continue next week.“By law, the company is wrong because they don’t follow the order from the Arbitration Council [which led to the protesting],” he said.