Thousands of Workers Strike to Demand Removal of New Boss

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Striking workers gather outside the Bowker garment factory in Kandal province on Thursday morning. (Chey Sovann)

Thousands of workers at a garment factory in Kandal province continued to strike for the fourth day today, demanding the removal of their factory administrator for dismissing workers without reason and harassing union members.

Ly Phalla, secretary of the Union of Cambodian Workers, said the action was sparked this week when Bowker Garment Factory administrator Yong Kong fired a cleaner and suspended a union representative without justification.

“He just started working here three months ago, but it is a mess. He tries to catch every one of our mistakes,” Phalla said.

The strike began on Monday and has involved more than 4,000 workers at the factory, which Phalla said produced products for adidas.

Phalla said Kong was discriminating against the union, and the workers’ strike showed that they supported its work.

“We have worked here for six or seven years already, and if have not protected the workers’ benefits and helped to solve their problems, they might not be protecting us as their respresentative,” he said.

A striking worker told VOD that Kong had made life difficult at the factory.

“When he arrived, he changed some policies that we used to have, and he used improper words and behavior,” said the worker, who would only give her name as Sona. “He fired workers without reason and, honestly, we just cannot accept him.”

Kong rejected the accusations against him, denying that he fired workers, discriminated against the union, put any pressure on factory employees or made any changes that affected workers’ benefits.

“I will let the relevant authorities and the factory find a solution according to legal procedures,” Kong said. “We are not oppressing the workers, but they are within their rights to do what they want to do.”

He said he would accept whatever decision the company and Labor Ministry reached.

“I am OK. I will follow the law,” he said. “The company hired me, and if I have a problem, the company will fire me. But so far, the company has had no basis to fire me, because the company has not found that I have made a mistake.”

Bowker’s five directors are listed as all being from either Hong Kong or Malaysia.

Ou Ratana, the Labor Ministry official in charge of labor dispute interventions, said most issues between the workers and management had been resolved, though a few points remained.

He added that the workers’ demand to remove the factory administrator was illegal.

“We cannot just gather for a strike in order to remove someone,” Ratana said. “The employer hires that person to work, so the decision to remove or not is the employer’s right.”

He would nevertheless work to find a compromise between the two sides, he said.

(Translated and edited from the original article on VOD Khmer)

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