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Cambodian Factory Workers and Managers Agree to Cease Strikes

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Cambodian garment factory workers and managers have signed an agreement to end the ongoing labor strike at the SL Garment Processing factory in the Meanchey district.

Singapore-owned SL, which supplies clothing to retailers like H&M and Gap Inc. (though the two companies have reportedly reduced orders), announced today that both parties settled on a resolution at a meeting held Dec. 3 that would get factory employees back to work beginning today.

Angered garment workers have been protesting on and off since early August over dissatisfaction with low wages and working conditions, with demonstrations at times turning violent. At an SL workers’ strike Nov. 12, an estimated 1,000 protestors took to the streets of Phnom Pen, hurtling rocks at authorities before police used tear gas and guns to disband the riot killing, one woman and wounding eight, Cambodia Daily reported.

The Coalition of Cambodian Apparel Workers’ Democratic Union (CCAWDU) had been seeking the reinstatement of nineteen union leaders who were reportedly fired from SL for participation in a riot where machinery was destroyed and wanted Meas Sotha, whom Cambodia Daily dubbed “the man at the center of the SL factory strike,” removed from his post as “trouble-shooting shareholder” because workers claimed he brought police to patrol the factory and prevent worker strikes.

As part of the new deal, the factory’s administration agreed to reinstate the nineteen previously dismissed workers and said Sotha would not longer get involved with SL management.

Workers had also been seeking to continue working three shifts instead of two, and asked that they be paid their full salaries for days spent demonstrating. Factory managers conceded to the three shifts and said workers would receive 50 percent of their wages and benefits for days on strike.

CCAWDU president Ath Thorn said, “Since the workers tried their best to protest to find a solution, it impacted their working process and the dispute was a huge problem. Therefore, it made the government find a solution for them and there was intervention from other NGOs and buyers, making the factory come to find a solution and make an agreement,” according to Cambodia Daily.

The agreement is effective from the date signed and all workers are due to return to their normal shifts as of Dec. 4, but some cite concerns that this new deal will fall on deaf ears as formal agreements like this have failed in the past.

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