The leader of the Cambodian Labor Organization denied Sunday his employees had anything to do with the violence that broke out at Goldfame Enterprises International Knitters Ltd last week.
Responding to allegations the CLO and a union “were inciting the demonstrators to push through the gate and burn down the building,” CLO executive director Seng Phally said his organization has been falsely accused
“That is just not true,” he said.
CLO monitors visit factories to check on workplace conditions, but are not involved in union organizing drives or other union matters, Seng Phally said.
He said he spoke to employees at the CLO’s district office near the plant, and they have denied any involvement. “I am clear about this. This did not happen,” he said.
The trouble at Goldfame erupted last Monday, when an illegal strike over piecework rates escalated into violence. After a confrontation with police, workers stormed into the factory compound and set fire to a warehouse before being dispersed.
The question of who was at fault is still being debated. Several competing unions had been trying to organize the nearly 4,000 Goldfame workers for months.
Leaders of two unions—the Cambodian Union Federation and the Khmer Youth Federation Trade Union—held a news conference Thursday to blame the CLO and a third union, the Free Trade Union of the Workers of the Kingdom of Cambodia, for the violence.
Chea Vichea, president of the Free Trade Union, has also denied the allegations, saying he had not even been at the factory that day. He and Seng Phally both say the other two unions are trying to deflect the blame from themselves.
The only union official on the premises that day was Yun Rithy, the president of the KYFTU, who was meeting with company officials to try to solve the dispute, both Chea Vichea and Seng Phally said. Chea Vichea said that while the Free Trade Union has no enrolled members at the plant, the CUF and KYFTU claim 500 members between them.
Yun Rithy could not be reached Sunday for comment. But Chuon Mom Thol, president of the CUF, insisted the CLO took an active role in instigating the violence. Chuon Mom Thol admitted he was not at the factory when the riot broke out.