Court Orders Striking Workers Back to Factory

The Phnom Penh Municipal Court has ordered 400 striking workers to return to the Xin Fang garment factory by Thursday morning after deciding that their industrial action was in violation of the labor law, according to factory and union representatives.

A court injunction dated August 29 but only delivered to the Coalition of Cambodia Apparel Workers Democratic Union (CCAWDU) on Tuesday gives workers two days from the time of notice to return to their stations.

The decision from Judge Yet Molin “orders the staff, workers and employees who are striking at Xin Fang (Cambodia) Garment manufacturing to go back to work within 48 hours.”

About 300 workers returned to work already Wednesday, while about another 100 protested in the morning outside the court over the decision. However, a union representative said they too would follow the order and today call off their strike over 19 demands including a lunch allowance, benefits for pregnant women and new mothers, and a $15 monthly housing allowance.

CCAWDU factory representative Chhun Rida said the union has told its members to head back to the factory to protect them from potential punitive action by the factory or authorities.

“We are not happy with the injunction of the court,” Mr. Rida said. “We called the workers back to work because we had no choice and we were afraid if they still refused to work they would face the law.”

Factory administrative director Vong Thavin said the factory would reinstate all of the workers if they returned today.

“We will allow the workers who are still striking back to the factory tomorrow. If they do not come back tomorrow, they will face the law or be fired from work,” Mr. Thavin said.

In a separate industrial dispute, about 5,000 workers at the Juhui factory in Kompong Cham province went on strike for the third straight day Wednesday, demanding 15 points including higher pay for skilled workers and better overtime pay.

The group, also led by CCAWDU, followed through on a threat to block the factory gates in the morning but dispersed after provincial officials called a meeting with union leaders.

Mom Sarem, a union representative at the factory, said that the provincial officials scolded them for blocking the road into the factory but were unable to resolve the dispute. “They always call us to stop inciting worker to join striking and go back to work,” she said. “But the workers cannot do that.”

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