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Cambodia: Ongoing Strikes Prompt Factory Owners to Seek Gov’t Aid

The Garment Manufacturers Association in Cambodia (GMAC) has had enough of an ongoing strike at a garment factory in Kompong Chhnang, and the organization released a statement last weekend condemning the strike and imploring the government to “punish the perpetrators.”

Roughly 3,000 workers at the Chinese-owned Jiun Ye garment factory have been on strike since Aug. 18 after management failed to distribute owed monthly bonuses with their regular pay. The factory has claimed the bonus omission was an error, but workers believed they were being cheated.

According to Cambodia Daily, the dissatisfied strikers took to the streets in protest, blocking a major local road on more than one occasion, reportedly smashing the windows of a guardhouse and knocking over a gate.

“The Garment Manufacturers Association in Cambodia (GMAC) would like to request the competent authorities and the Royal Government to enforce the law and punish the perpetrators,” the association said in a statement in the Rasmei Kampuchea Daily newspaper Saturday. “Cambodia is a state of law. Therefore, implementing the law is a priority of the country in order to make investors have confidence,” Cambodia Daily quoted the newspaper as saying.

But Mum Siek, head of the local Khmer Union Federation of Workers Spirit, dismissed GMAC’s plea and said the strikes would go on.

“It is GMAC’s right to condemn our union,” he said. “We did not incite the workers; it was the workers who went on strike to demand their benefits because the factory is cheating them,” Siek told Cambodia Daily.

Jiun Ye has said it is working to correct the short pay and promised to include any missing monies in workers’ next paychecks early in September.

Last week’s strikes speak to a general sentiment of discontent among workers in the low wage nation and local stakeholders expect protests to persist.

Earlier this month, Cambodian labor unions and the garment workers they represent threatened to launch a new round of wage strikes if their monthly pay is increased to the $115 GMAC recently recommended.

Local unions had proposed increasing the wage rate from its current $100 per month to $177, but GMAC offered $115 instead, reportedly to remain in line with the government’s plan to gradually raise wages to $160 by 2018. Last year, the country’s Labor Advisory Committee raised the monthly minimum wage from $80 to $95, but workers’ displeasure at the too-low rate led to rampant unrest. Now labor unions are threatening renewed protests if their demands for a higher wage hike remain unmet.