Deal Reached but Dispute Continues at PCCS Factory

In at least the fourth stoppage in two weeks, workers at the PCCS garment factory in Phnom Penh walked off the job again yesterday before resuming work after union and factory representatives reached a deal over strike pay, according to union officials and factory management.

Eric Mah, administration and human resources manager at PCCS, said the factory had agreed to pay workers for the time they had been off during the strikes, which began on July 21, and that everyone was back at work by yesterday afternoon.

On Monday, the factory allowed Free Trade Union representative Mann Channa–whose suspension on July 19 sparked the initial protest–to return to the factory, according to Yang Sophorn, deputy FTU president.

“Right now the workers have returned to working normally,” she said.

But that appeared to be the extent of the agreement between the two parties, as both offered different accounts of events before the pay deal.

Mr Mah said the management had agreed to take Ms Channa back because arbitration proceedings had collapsed, requiring the company to end her suspension. Workers disregarded calls by the Arbitration Council–a multi-party body designed to resolve labor disputes–to return to work during arbitration, said Mr Mah.

“Its not up to us to say we want her back. It’s the law,” he said.

However Sok Lor, executive director of the Arbitration Council Foundation, which provides legal support for arbitrators, said he believed the council was still considering the case.

Today “there is another session. We are expecting both parties to come,” he said.

He said an independent panel of arbitrators had been hearing the dispute, as well as helping the two parties in conciliation efforts. This panel will decide whether to continue the arbitration but that decision has not yet done so, he said.

Mr Mah said the factory would still press ahead with action against Ms Channa through the courts.

Moeun Tola, head of the labor program at the Community Legal Education Center, said he was pleased the employer and the union had at least been able to end the strikes.

“Its good that both parties have reached an agreement,” he said, adding that the Arbitration Council had invited representatives of all involved parties for further conciliatory talks before tomorrow’s hearing.


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