Cambodian Journalists Alliance Association

Workers from shuttered factories petition Kandal court for pay

Police set up a barrier to block a group of 200 workers who were marching to the Kandal Provincial Court in Takhmao City on July 13 to submit a petition asking that the court remove an injunction preventing them from being paid by their former factory owner. Panha Chhorpoan

More than 200 workers from the shuttered Dignity Knitter and Eco Base factories in Kandal province’s Takhmao City marched to deliver a petition to the provincial court on July 13 after going without pay and benefits for nearly seven months. 

The workers walked more than10 kilometers from the factories to the provincial court in Takhmao City but were stopped about 500 meters from the courthouse by provincial authorities including Governor Kong Sophorn, who promised to help them with their case.

Phin Sophea, a Coalition of Cambodian Apparel Workers Democratic Union (CCAWDU) representative who was employed at Dignity Knitter factory for 14 years before the company suspended operations in March, said the group had received a positive response from officials.

“The new Kandal provincial governor took the petition from us and he promised that he will help to resolve this case quickly and will start to work on it this afternoon,” he said, adding that the provincial police chief and Takhmao city governor and police chief had also attended the meeting.

He noted that the goal of the petition was to ask the provincial court to dissolve an injunction requested by other plaintiffs who claimed the owners of the bankrupt factory owed them money. The injunction prevented a committee created by the Labor Ministry last month from selling off unused equipment at the two factories in order to pay roughly 1,000 workers who have not received wages of benefits since January.

After closing, Dignity Knitter factory and Eco Base factory promised to compensate employees for their months of back pay, plus half pay in the months following the suspension in March, according to union representatives employed there.

Provincial Governor Sophorn confirmed he had received the petition to dissolve the court’s injunction and promised the workers that he would help resolve the case.

He said he told workers that he will push the provincial court to decide on the case and that he had asked a government attorney to file a complaint to the provincial court on behalf of the workers.

“A lawyer from the government will send a complaint to the judge who will decide whether or not to dissolve the previous injunction,” Sophorn said.

He added that after he received the petition, he had met with provincial court officials, government attorneys and worker representatives to file a complaint with the court.

“Representatives of the company announced that the company is bankrupt which is why government lawyers could file a new complaint on behalf of the workers, ” Sophorn said.

“The whole provincial authority will continue to help our workers,” he added.

Leng Srey, 45, a CCAWDU representative at the Eco Base factory who had also worked there for 14 years, said that former employees at the factory had all been facing extreme difficulty due to their lack of income.

“We do not have money to buy food every day because we have not received a solution yet,” she said.

“Most of [the workers] still do not have work because they cannot find a new job and because they are waiting for a solution from the factory owner and the government,” she said, adding that she hoped the provincial governor would be able to help them receive the pay they are owed.

Ou Ratana, a deputy secretary-general of the Committee for the Resolution of Strikes and Demonstrations at the Labor Ministry confirmed he was working with the provincial court on the case, and declined to provide further comment.

Kandal Provincial Court Director Hok Vanthina declined to comment and referred questions to the provincial court’s spokesman So Sorin, who said that a complaint had been filed.

“I received the complaint already but I do not know the result yet,” he said.

According to a recent statement from the Garment Manufacturers Association in Cambodia, since the beginning of the Covid-19 outbreak, some 400 factories in the Cambodian apparel, footwear and travel goods sectors have had to suspend operations, and most others are operating at reduced capacity. More than 150,000 workers in the sector have lost their jobs.

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