After Mass Firing, Union Considers New Protests

More than 100 workers who were fired by a Taiwanese-owned garment factory this week for striking over demands for further benefits will meet with union leaders “as soon as possible” to discuss potentially launching protests, a union representative said Tuesday.

The workers were fired by the Xin Fang factory in Phnom Penh’s Pur Senchey district after restarting protests Monday over 19 demands, including a lunch allowance and $15 monthly housing stipend.

A court injunction delivered to the Coalition of Cambodia Apparel Workers’ Democratic Union (CCAWDU) last Tuesday ordered the 400 laborers to return to their workstations by Thursday. While 300 of the workers went back to their jobs on September 3, the remaining 100 held out until Friday. But the 100 restarted the protests on Monday, as their demands still had not been met.

“We will discuss protesting the company’s decision [to fire the workers] with union officials,” said Ney Bunthoeun, a CCAWDU representative at the factory, adding that the talks would take place “as soon as possible.”

“The injunction of the court just ordered workers to return to work, but did not ban the workers from resuming the strike,” he said.

In a separate case, thousands of striking workers from the Taiwanese-owned Juhui Footwear factory in Kompong Cham province are set to return to work today, after the provincial court issued an injunction demanding they end their protest, according to union leaders and factory officials.

The workers, who first began protesting on September 1 to demand overtime payment and other benefits, briefly returned to the factory on Thursday before restarting their demonstration because, they claim, factory managers said they had to align themselves with either management or their union—not both.

“The court has decided that [CCAWDU representatives] must stop leading strikes and all employees must go back to work and fulfill their positions,” the injunction says. It is signed by Judge Sam Bunthong and dated September 3, but was not delivered until Tuesday.

Mom Sarem, a union representative at the factory, said the workers would abide by the injunction, and return to work within 48 hours of receiving the document as required, but said protests would resume if their demands are still not met.

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