Cambodian Footwear Workers Stage Protest Over Low Severance Payments

More than 1,000 Cambodian workers from a footwear factory in the capital Phnom Penh staged a protest on Friday after they failed to reach an agreement with management over the amount of severance pay they will receive for refusing to relocate to a new facility, those involved in the matter said.

Workers blocked a road during the protest because they say the business owners want to close down the factory and relocate it to a new location on the outskirts of the city � a move that the employees strongly oppose because it would be more difficult for them to get to work from their homes and their children's schools.

An employee who declined to be named told RFA's Khmer Service that workers have demanded U.S. $300 severance pay, though factory management decided to give them only U.S. $80.

The factory is tricky, he said. They will only give us U.S. $80 and require that we submit our resignations, she said.

But if the workers provide resignation letters, they will forfeit more of their benefits, she added.

RFA's Khmer Service could not reach the factory management or the Ministry of Labor and Vocational Training for comment on Friday.

Cambodia's labor law requires employers to pay severance to workers who refuse to move from their current factory location to a new one, said Rong Chhun, president of the Cambodian Confederation of Unions.

A labor regulation that went into effect in September requires employers to pay severance equal to five percent of a worker's salary.

Rong Chhun urged all parties to try to reach a deal.

The factory must pay the workers, and the Ministry of Labor must help the workers, he said.

The workers said they will protest again if their demand for higher severance is not met.

About 600 factories comprise Cambodia's heavily unionized garment and footwear sector on which the country depends for crucial exports to the European Union, United States, and other Western countries.

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