Workers and unions claim factory owners had promised the bonus for not joining a post-New Year strike (Photo credit: LICHADO)

Workers and unions claim factory owners had promised the bonus for not joining a post-New Year strike (Photo credit: LICHADO)

The Garment Manufacturers Association in Cambodia (GMAC) has called on the country's government to step in to try to stop several garment strikes that began last week, and are now continuing into a second week.

Thousands of garment workers at around 30 factories in two special economic zones at Bavet City in Svay Rieng province took part in a five-day stay-at-home stoppage last week demanding a US$50 bonus and an increase in wages.

Workers and unions claim factory owners had promised the bonus for not joining a post-New Year strike, which was organised by eight opposition-aligned trade unions.

The GMAC, however, has denied the factories at Tai Seng and Manhattan special economic zones had made such a promise to pay the bonus.

While local reports last week suggested the strike had fizzled out, Chheng Chhean, secretary general of the Collective Union of Movement of Workers (CUMW), today (28 April) estimated that employees at around 80% of Bavet's 40 garment factories - some 20,000 workers - joined the strike on Saturday.

The GMAC, however, was keen to emphasise today that no action by the Government has been made to stop the strikes.

"GMAC would like to strongly appeal again to the Ministry of Labor...relevant institutions...[and] local authorities to exercise their duties to stop this incident immediately in order to maintain security and safety of the investors and their workers who intended to go to work," the group said.

"This incident will spread to other areas and will affect not only the garment and footwear factories, but also other factories if there is no action to stop it immediately."

The GMAC said it was appealing to all workers to return to work as usual and "not listen to the incitement of this union". If not, it said employees will forfeit wages and other benefits during the demonstration period, under Article 332 of the Cambodian Labor Law.

Officials at the Ministry of Labor could not be reached for comment at the time of going to press.