Ministry Proposes Solution to Canteran Dispute, Workers Vote to Keep Pushing

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Workers camp outside Phnom Penh’s Canteran Apparel factory on Veng Sreng Blvd on July 21, 2022. (Hean Rangsey/VOD)

The Labor Ministry on Wednesday proposed a compensation plan for former workers of the defunct Canteran Apparel garment factory after Prime Minister Hun Sen urged officials to find a solution for the labor dispute.

The prime minister referenced the Canteran dispute in a speech yesterday at a graduation ceremony, questioning what the ministry was doing after the abruptly laid-off workers petitioned his cabinet.

“They sent the petition about a month ago but are still without an answer,” he said. “Now I want to clarify to the Ministry of Labor that my cabinet has received the petition. And what should you do next? Who received it?”

Hun Sen said the factory needs to provide workers with money for compensation, adding that the government provides the Labor Ministry with funding to resolve such disputes over money.

“The government gives you the money to borrow to solve the problem for the workers, and later we solve the problem with the owner,” he said, listing such methods as filing complaints against companies or freezing their accounts. 

The Labor Ministry’s compensation proposal includes last month’s salary, remaining annual leave allowance, and bonuses for seniority accrued before 2019.

Workers from Canteran Apparel have camped outside the shuttered factory since March to prevent the owner from selling equipment. They allege the owner is moving equipment to a new factory and has not settled their dues. The court had ordered a freeze on the factory’s assets on August 3, workers said. 

Son Sopha, a former Canteran employee, said she was unhappy with the proposal. She explained the package suggested by the ministry falls short of what workers have been demanding over months of protests.

“It’s not right, I can’t expect it for me and other workers too,” she said, explaining the laid-off staff are pushing for compensation that would cover two additional benefits. The loss of those two benefits would effectively halve their compensation, Sopha said.

On Thursday evening, about 120 of the laid-off employees gathered to discuss the Labor Ministry proposal, voting to reject it. Representatives of the workers will meet with ministry officials on Friday morning. 

Sopha said that workers will also appeal once more to the prime minister. 

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