Disbarred Lawyer Challenges Union Over Legality of Strike

Disbarred Cambodian lawyer Da­vid Chanaiwa has written to the In­ternational Labor Organization ac­cusing the Free Trade Union of or­­­ganizing an illegal strike at Phnom Penh’s Zheng Yung garment factory.

The letter, sent on Wednesday, was accompanied by a petition signed by 855 factory workers who say they were forced to strike by the union on Monday and want the factory not to dock their pay.

“I sent it to the ILO for their study and so that the garment buyers know how bad this union is,” Chanaiwa said by telephone.

“I accuse the Free Trade Union of leading the strike illegally…their demands should have gone through the Ministry of Labor and Ar­­­bitration Council,” he said.

Most strikes in Cambodia are technically illegal, according to ILO’s factory monitoring project, as unions do not give factories notice of strike action or seek government help or arbitration first as re­quired in the Labor Law.

FTU President Chea Mony said the strike at the 1,600-worker factory was voluntary and was triggered in part by Chanaiwa’s involvement in the case.

He said workers had been told that they must work on Feb 13, the Meak Bochea holiday, but could take Feb 11 off instead. However, those that took the day off were not paid by the factory, he said, adding that the workers also went on strike be­cause a worker was beaten by a security guard for coming to work late, and because they did not want to negotiate with Chanaiwa.

Chanaiwa, who has been disbarred by the Cambodian Bar As­so­ciation, said he was working only as a negotiator for the factory.

John Ritchotte, acting director of the ILO Labor Dispute Resolution Project, said he had not yet re­ceived the letter as Wednesday was a holiday, International Wom­en’s Day.

US-educated Chanaiwa was jailed in August for allegedly joy-riding his Hummer vehicle across Hun Sen Park. He was released in Oc­­tober after agreeing to pay $3,700 in damages.

   (Additional reporting by Erik Wasson)

 

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