Kandal Provincial Court on Wednesday ordered three garment factory union leaders to pay their employer $300,000 for leading a series of strikes and ordered them to stop working for the factory.
Labor movement leaders said the heavy fine, following on the heels of the same court’s landmark sentencing last month of local union leader Sok Vy to jail for inciting a strike, is part of an effort to bypass the 1997 Labor Law, outlaw strikes and silence unions.
Judge In Bopha fined Hana Cambodia Garment factory union president Y Soeurn, 28, deputy president Chum Pov, 24, and secretary Nuth Sary, 27, for their roles in strikes in June and August of last year. The factory claimed the strikes cost $50,000 a day in lost production, their lawyer Nos Bophal said.
“The court decision is not right because the judge said that the strike was illegal. The strike was not illegal,” Nos Bophal said.
Mom Nhim, a member of the National and Independent Federation of Textile Unions of Cambodia, of which the Hana Union is a member, said she is filing a complaint to the Appeals Court and one against the judge to the Supreme Council of Magistracy.
“Our workers have a right to do demonstrations,” she said.
Tha Rith, program manager at American Center for International Labor Solidarity, said US unions are following the case and complaints are being made to the factory’s buyers, Reebok and Twins.
“This is related to the Sok Vy case. It happened in the same court and fits the same pattern of intimidation of unions,” he said.
Nuth Sary said she will not be able to pay the fine.
“Now they ask us to compensate $300,000. How can I get the money?” she asked.
Tha Rith noted that if the three workers cannot pay, they will face prison time.
Judge Im Bopha could not be reached for comment. Saran Chhim, the contact person listed for Hana Cambodia said: “We respect the law. This is the court’s decision.”