June 1, 2021

Protests erupt among factory workers demanding Covid tests

Workers at the factories in Kampong Cham province’s Cheung Prey district demand 50 per cent of their wages while they are kept in quarantine for 14 days. Kampong Cham Provincial Information Department

Long Kimmarita | The Phnom Penh Post
Publication date 31 May 2021 | 22:07 ICT

Medical workers have taken throat swabs to check for infections in more than 2,000 factory workers in Kampong Cham province’s Cheung Prey district after they gathered to block National Road 6 in protest on May 29.

The protest erupted after they had received information that five to six workers from two factories – Hwa Long Co Ltd and Out Sold Industry Co Ltd – in Phdav Chum commune’s Chheu Teal village had tested positive for Covid-19 and were admitted to the Kampong Cham provincial hospital.

Cheng Heang, director of the provincial Department of Labour and Vocational Training, told The Post on May 31 that more than 300 workers staged the protest to demand the factories to take samples from all workers due to their concerns about the spread of Covid-19 at the factories.

They also demanded that the factories pay them 50 per cent of their wages while they are kept in quarantine for 14 days.

He added that after speaking with authorities, all of the workers had agreed to go back to work because the factory owners had agreed to their request to test all of them for Covid-19.

The owners also granted the workers’ request for 50 per cent of their wages during their 14-day quarantine.

“All of the workers had already been tested after the protest up until May 30. They had their samples taken. But so far the Ministry of Health has not yet provided me with any information on the test results,” he said.

Cambodian Labour Confederation president Ath Thon said that protesting was well within the rights of the workers and the Ministry of Labour and Vocational Training had issued a formal letter holding the factories accountable for their wages during quarantine.

He added that the workers’ demand to test them for Covid-19 was correct because they were concerned about their safety. The tests were the only way to resolve their concerns completely.

“The labour and health ministries had issued separate letters and the companies should implement them. But as far as I know, a few companies haven’t implemented it, leading some workers to protest.

“In order to avoid these protests, the labour ministry should inspect these companies and make them comply by fining and suspending them,” Thon said.

During a recent press conference, labour ministry spokesman Heng Sour said more than 200 factories had been temporarily closed due to the detection of Covid-19 cases, with 1,673 workers testing positive for the virus and more than 10,000 having to quarantine for 14 days.

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