Factory Workers Who Refuse Vaccines Could Lose Jobs: Labor Ministry

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Workers at the Y&W Garment factory in Phnom Penh’s Dangkao district on March 3, 2021. (Tran Techseng/VOD)
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Garment workers who aren’t vaccinated for Covid-19 could eventually be barred from factories and lose their jobs, Labor Ministry spokesperson Heng Sour said on Wednesday.

The country began its vaccination program for factory workers on Wednesday, with Sour saying that 280,000 of about 700,000 workers in the garment sector, or 40 percent, had voluntarily registered to receive a shot as of the weekend.

For now, the ministry is working to explain the advantages of vaccinations and asking for volunteers. But eventually it will become mandatory — in the same way that civil servants have been told they would lose their jobs if they refused vaccines, Sour said.

“We will have the same measure to secure the immunity of Cambodia against Covid. We need to vaccinate up to 10 million by June 2022,” he said.

Prime Minister Hun Sen said in an audio message on Tuesday that civil servants would not be allowed back in offices if they aren’t vaccinated.

“I would like to inform civil servants who do not want to be vaccinated that when all institutions have been vaccinated more than 70 percent, those unvaccinated officials may not go to work. Just sleep at home,” Hun Sen said. “Getting vaccinated is to protect your own life and join the fight to protect against Covid-19. [If] you can’t do it, it’s unnecessary to continue to be a soldier, police or civil servant.”

Yang Sophorn, president of the Cambodia Alliance of Trade Unions, said the number of registered workers was still low because some had not yet received clear information about the effectiveness and quality of the vaccines.

There should be better information rather than pressure, she said.

“If they haven’t had it explained very well yet, I don’t think they will understand. So why should they agree to get it?”

Chea Sryna, a seamstress at the Greentree Cam garment factory in Phnom Penh’s Pur Senchey district, said she had registered for the vaccine but was not decided on whether she would actually receive it as she had skin allergies and had heard it could cause problems.

“I am a little worried,” Sryna said. “I really want to get it because we want to protect ourselves, but I heard that if somebody has allergies, you can’t inject. You need to consult with a doctor.”

Another garment worker, Em Seakveng, 29, at Nyan Kids in the capital’s Kambol district, said her factory manager had twice asked her to register for the vaccine but she refused due to concerns about her existing stomach and intestinal problems.

“They said that if we do not get the injection, and there is a problem, they will fire us and when we go back home with no vaccination card, they would not allow us to enter our hometowns,” she said.

Thy Bunthon, administrative manager at the Y&W Garment factory in Phnom Penh’s Dangkao district, said registrations were voluntary at his factory, which has always followed the government’s instructions.

About half of the factory’s 2,000 workers had registered, he said. Those that hadn’t were receiving more information about the benefits, he said.

“Sometimes, we have to show a slideshow presentation from the Ministry of Health or advice on the benefits of the vaccination, so that they can understand more clearly,” Bunthon said. “Because, in general, the vaccination is the way forward. If we do not inject it, wherever we go, we might feel scared.”

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