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Workers Vow To Continue Wage Strike


Cambodian garment workers run as they escape for safety in front of a factory of Yak Jin in Kambol village on the outskirts of Phnom Penh, Cambodia, Thursday, Jan. 2, 2014.

Cambodian garment workers run as they escape for safety in front of a factory of Yak Jin in Kambol village on the outskirts of Phnom Penh, Cambodia, Thursday, Jan. 2, 2014.

Union leaders say workers will continue to strike over low wages, despite a violent crackdown by authorities last week and threats this week from factories who say they will be forced to move to other countries if strikes continue.

Five different union say their workers will keep up the strike, demanding an eventual monthly salary of $160 per month, though many workers will stay home rather than demonstrate in the streets.

“We will stick to our position,” said Chea Mony, president of the Free Trade Union. “When [workers] go home, can the factories stay open?”

Continued strikes have entered their fifteenth day, costing factories some $200 million, said Van Sou Ieng, president of the Garment Manufacturers Association in Cambodia.

Manufacturers say they cannot meet the workers’ salary demands.

Ken Loo, GMAC’s secretary-general, said Tuesday that management will no longer discuss a salary increase with workers, but factories will instead move out of the country if strikes continue.

Workers say they cannot live off the current salary, $80 per month, with the rising cost of living in Cambodia.

Chea Mony said the strikes won’t stop and that labor leaders will continue to push for salaries.

The strikes will continue despite a violent crackdown on workers outside Phnom Penh on Friday. Four people were killed and 40 injured when an elite military unit fired into crowds of demonstrators.

International and local rights groups on Tuesday joined together to condemn the deadly attacks.

“The killing of demonstrators by government authorities is totally unacceptable,” said Karim Lahidji, president of the International Federation for Human Rights. “The government must use dialogue, not guns and batons, to address workers’ demands and to deal with political dissent.”

Thun Saray, president of the rights group Adhoc, called the attack “extremely troubling.”

“The government must launch a quick, thorough, and independent investigation into the 3 January killings and hold those responsible accountable,” he said. “Authorities must also immediately release workers, monks, and human rights defenders who have been arbitrarily detained in connection with the protests.”
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