Cambodian Garment Workers Protest Lay-Offs

Thousands of garment workers have marched through the Cambodian capital Phnom Penh over mass dismissals

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Nicolas Axelrod/Getty Images

Garment factory workers push through a police blockade as they marched from a factory in Phnom Penh's Meanchy district to demand an increase in wages.

A Cambodian factory supplying major global brands has come under fire for dismissing hundreds of garment workers striking over poor conditions. Singapore-owned SL Garment Processing laid off 720 workers in Phnom Penh this week and suspended more than 5,000 others after they walked out complaining of poor health and safety standards and low wages.

But the factory, which supplies GAP, Levi’s and H&M, agreed to backdown after thousands of garment workers marched some 10 km through Cambodia’s capital on Thursday, reports Al Jazeera. Workers were harassed by armed military police who regularly inspected the factory, labor union leader Ath Thorn told ABC.

“The company agreed to withdraw the dismissal. Now all the 6,000 workers have the right to come back to work,” Thorn said. Company shareholder Meas Sotha deemed the strike “illegal” and said that the factory had not intended to intimidate workers with the presence of armed personnel on site.

Garment industry disputes are common in Cambodia, with two or three strikes taking place each week throughout the first half of this year. The garment industry is Cambodia’s third-biggest sector after agriculture and tourism but conditions for workers, particularly regarding safety and health, have been deteriorating, according to a July report by the International Labor Organization.

[Al Jazeera]