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Workers protest at ministry

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Workers gather in front of the First Gawon Apparel factory in Phnom Penh on Wednesday after a bid for intervention from the Ministry of Labour in a dispute with employers failed. Pann Rachana

Workers protest at ministry

About 100 workers from First Gawon Apparel gathered in front of the Ministry of Labour in Phnom Penh on Wednesday asking for intervention on their behalf in a dispute with their employer. The workers claim the company has not paid their salaries for more than five months.

The workers at first attempted to march to the ministry from the factory but were halted by Meanchey district police, who told them that marching presented a threat to public order. However, the authorities allowed them to be transported to the ministry in a truck.

One worker, employed by First Gawon for eight years, told of the hardships she has faced in the five months since she was last paid. “We’ve been working for more than five months without pay,” said the worker, who requested anonymity.

“We struggle to support our families; the landlord is threatening to evict us; our kids can’t go to school as we don’t have the money to pay the fees.

“I want to ask those at the ministry: ‘What if I didn’t pay your salary for five months, what is your wife going to say about you? You think she would let you stay at home anymore?”

But as the workers protested outside the ministry, officials informed them that those at the Department for Dispute Resolution were on an assignment in Svay Reang province and would not return until Thursday.

‘Enforce Cambodian law’

With no resolution offered, the workers decided to return to the factory, the anonymous worker said, where they erected a banner and had a barbecue.

The workers said that if they didn’t hear anything by Friday, they would again contact the ministry.

Khem Makara, the union president of First Gawon Apparel and a member of the Coalition of Cambodian Apparel Workers Democratic Unions (C.CAWDU), vowed that they would continue to protest on the factory’s grounds until a resolution was offered.

“We’re asking the minister at the Ministry of Labour to take action against the factory owner to enforce the law in Cambodia and pay workers their salaries . . . We will occupy in front of the factory until we get the solution,’’ Makara said.

He added: “As long as we don’t get a fair solution, we’ll stay at the factory.”

First Gawon Apparel supplies garments for such retailers as Venus, Fashion Inc, New Direction, Belk Store Services Inc and Calliope.

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