17-5-039

Abandoned garment workers take their fight online

Source : KhmerTimes

The workers of a garment factory in Phnom Penh, which reportedly supplied to Marks & Spencer and abruptly shut down last year, have since created a video documenting their troubles.

More than 200 women who were formerly employed at the now-defunct Chung Fai Knitwear factory were left in the lurch when its owners from Hong Kong fled the country last July, leaving them without jobs or compensation.

Since then, they have been protesting intermittently, asking the government and retail giant M&S to pay them what is owed, but to no avail.

“Last Sunday, we produced a video which is just under 10 minutes long. It describes how difficult our lives have been since we lost our jobs and got no compensation when our employer fled the factory,” Khorn Chiven, a representative of the abandoned workers, said.

“We want to show this video to those purchasing from the factory, namely the buyers, who should be held responsible. We worked hard to create their products, but now we receive no help from them when we are in trouble.

“The video talks about the workers who were evicted from their rental homes, who owe people money, those who had to take to the streets to demand their wages, as well as some of the older people who haven’t been able to get new jobs,” she said.

In February, close to 100 workers blocked National Road 2 in Phnom Penh’s Meanchey district again demanding that they be compensated for their untimely dismissal. They were asking for half a million dollars.

That was just one of many protests the 208 workers have carried out, their main gripes being that their employers fled without giving them advance notice and without paying them their final month’s wages or severance pay.

They say their situation is made worse because many of them were old, having worked at Chung Fai factory for upwards of 18 years, making it difficult for them to find jobs elsewhere.

American Center for International Labor Solidarity country director William Conklin said yesterday the coalition has taken up the case of the Chung Fai workers and will liaise with brands who purchased goods from the factory in a bid to track down the owners.

“We are assisting in facilitation on the ground. From what I understand, this video is putting the Chung Fai case in the context of the global garment industry. It is an unfortunate side effect of a ‘foot loose’ industry,” he said.

While unsure if the video will help the group get compensation, he said it will draw attention to widespread factory closings around the world, in hopes that brands will simplify their supply chains and prevent leaving workers with empty pockets.

Leave a Reply