Workers protest exploitation at seafood company

More than half of 800 Cambodian workers at a protest at Phatthana Seafood Co – part of PTN Group – this week accused police of threatening them with guns and firing into the air. Workers are claiming exploitation, including docking pay for so-called “bondage payments” and confiscation of their passports.

The workers were preparing to return home on Monday, according to a strike representative, Sik Sorng.

“The management apparently decided to reduce the benefit for the workers and almost immediately a protest erupted,” said Migrant advocate Andy Hall from Thailand’s Mahidol University, ABC reports. “Workers were very angry so they gathered outside of the gate, and it started to get a little bit heated and there were police brought in, shots fired and now we just have a situation where we have a lock-out.”

Employees were told that factory management would give their passports back to them and release them from their contracts if they wanted to leave following negotiations with CDM Trading Manpower, which is the Cambodian company that sent the workers to the factory. About 500 of the workers have accepted the offer, Sok Sorng said.

At the same time, three days of strikes were fruitless, as they did not lead to the employees achieving their initial demands – the payment of a THB 20 (USD 0.64) daily food allowance and a THB 20 (USD 0.64) daily hard-work bonus. However, many workers were relieved to be going home to Cambodia, Sok Sorng told The Phnom Penh Post.

Roughly 70 per cent of the 2,000 plant workers are Cambodians who reside in company housing, an issue which has also bred tension, UPI reports.

About 1,000 people, including workers from Myanmar and Thailand, began protesting in Songkhla province last weekend outside the global seafood exporter, which supplies retail giant Wal-Mart.

“The factory gave us the right to come back,” the worker’s representative said. “We are happy that we have been given a solution after protesting for a few days.”

“But for those who want to continue, the factory could not pay what the protesters demand,” he explained.
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