Historic settlement after months of struggle

published 26-05-2014 15:05, last modified 28-05-2014 13:17
In late 2012 nearly 200 garment workers at the Kingsland factory in Phnom Penh were deprived of their severance pay after the factory abruptly closed its doors. To prevent the factory's assets being stripped (equipment being taken away and sold) they started a months-long vigil and protest camp in front of the factory. This resulted in a historic settlement with Walmart and H&M in March 2013.
Historic settlement after months of struggle

Vigil at Kingsland. Credit: Heather Stillwell

“I am six months pregnant. It was difficult to work while I’m pregnant but even though it’s hard I need to struggle. I don’t know what to do. I can’t survive with the salary cut. I will protest like this until there is a solution. I want the factory and Walmart to rush to give us our severance pay.” - Heoun Rapi, Kingsland worker for 8 years

The situation started with repeated suspensions of operations by factory management. Workers were only paid 50% of the wages for the entire period of suspended operations. One day in December 2012 the workers returned to the factory to find it permanently closed and the managers gone.

No suspension of operations or closure was registered with the Ministry of Labour. The suspension and closure were therefore illegal, and all workers were entitled to full payment in accordance with Cambodian law.

On 3 January 2013 around 200 workers began a 24-hour factory vigil to ensure that equipment was not removed and assets stripped. The Ministry of Labour called for conciliation between the parties on 16 January 2013. The employer did not attend. As a response, the vigil continued.

 

Compensation

In an attempt to draw the attention of the buyer H&M, workers protested in front of the H&M building in Phnom Penh and at the Swedish embassy. The workers demanded that H&M ensured payment from Kingsland’s owner or from the brands that sourced from the factory; H&M and Walmart.

Kingsland win
Kingsland workers celebrate their victory. Credit: Heather Stilwell

After months of struggle, with widespread support from the international solidarity network, 24/7 protests in front of the factory and even a hunger strike, the nearly 200 Kingsland employees won a historic settlement of over US $200,000 from H&M and Walmart in March 2013.

Read more about what is happening in Cambodia in the Spotlight page presenting interviews with workers and activists, video's and an interactive timeline about last year's events.  

See also:

Historic win for Cambodian workers

Workers left homeless and unpaid after factory closure