Arbitration Council Settles Industrial Dispute

The Arbitration Council, set up to settle labor disputes hardly a year ago, achieved a milestone Friday when a Korean garment factory and its workers’ union agreed to comply with council orders in future cases of worker or manager misconduct.

The Day Young factory case marked the first time two parties have made such a commitment to the council, which is trying to convince factory managers and workers to settle disputes without recourse to strikes or firings, said Daniel Adler, a council adviser.

“Before, [workers] have just gone on strike, and it’s come down to who has the most power in the situation,” he said Sunday.

“Both sides know that it’s better to have someone you can trust work it out,” he said.

Formed in late 2002 by government proclamation, the council has been credited with a significant decrease in strikes since it began hearing cases in May 2003, but has also faced criticism for its inability to enforce its rulings.

Its rulings are legally enforceable only if neither of the involved parties oppose the decision, or if the parties have agreed to be bound by the council’s rulings.

Day Young opted for the latter in last week’s case regarding a manager who allegedly mistreated workers.

“We have to just live by [the council], and hope that it continues to get more acceptance,” said Ray Chew, former secretary-general of the Garment Manufact­urers’ Association in Cambodia.

The council is currently in­volved in its most high-profile cases to date, involving the Raffles-owned Hotel Le Royal in Phnom Penh and Grand Hotel d’Angkor in Siem Reap, which fired workers who took part in a strike over the collection and disbursement of a service charge.

The council ruled last week that the firings at Le Royal are illegal and that 97 sacked employees be allowed to return to work.                                    Hotel management has the option this week to nullify that decision, or comply with the order. The Grand Hotel d’Angkor case is still under council consideration.


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