Over the last eight months, violence against workers has been escalating in Cambodia. Recently police shot and beat workers demonstrating to improve working conditions in the garment industry.
On 12 November workers marched to the Prime Minister's Office in Phnom Penh to demand help to solve a conflict with SL Garment. The response was water shots by police and military troops, with violence escalating to the point where one woman was killed and at least eight other people were seriously injured. Some of the demonstrating workers were charged with criminal offences and sent to jail.
The conflict at SL Garment started when the management began using police and military troops as security guards on the factory premises. Workers felt threatened by the presence of armed police, and felt that operational changes were made to their disadvantage. IndustriALL affiliate C.CAWDU sought dialogue with the management, demanding withdrawal of armed militaries and policemen, dismissal of the manager who is harassing the workers, and that the operations are reverted back to the original shifts.
With no answer from management workers went on strike; a strike that has lasted three months. Major brands supplying from the factory have asked the management to come in good faith to the negotiation table, but to no avail. Instead, the presence of military troops has intensified, also intensifying the feelings of anxiety and frustration among the workers. And despite the loss of a life and several injured, the owner of SL Garment still refuses to have a constructive dialogue with the trade union.
IndudstriALL Assistant General Secretary Monika Kemperle says:
"IndustriALL supports our affiliate and ask for a constructive dialogue with all stakeholders in Cambodia. We call on the government to stop the violence against workers and we call on the factory owners to start a dialogue with the unions as soon as possible."
Building mature industrial relations with the unions is not only beneficial for the workers, but also for the management and ultimately for the country. This has to be the last loss of life in Cambodia over disagreement between management and workers.