Garment manufacturers are being encouraged to turn to the courts to halt a week of strikes set to begin today and may even pursue criminal charges against union leaders, an industry representative said yesterday.
The Garment Manufacturers Association in Cambodia has advised its members to seek a court order against workers who strike today, GMAC Secretary-General Ken Loo said.
“We are just asking the court to decide on the legality of the strike,” he said.
Such an order could be issued if the courts deemed the strikes illegal, and would compel workers to return to work within 48 hours or face dismissal.
However authorities have not indicated that they will seek to prevent the strikes. Interior Ministry spokesman Khieu Sopheak said last week that the strikes would be allowed to go ahead so long as they were conducted within the law.
Oum Mean, secretary of state at the Ministry of Labor, said yesterday he was not concerned about today’s strike.
“They can do it and it is not relevant to my side,” he said.
The Cambodian Labor Confederation, led by President Ath Thon, is organizing the work stoppages, which could see as many as 80,000 people stop working until Friday.
Mr Loo of GMAC said the association was considering pursuing charges of incitement against those who organized the strikes.
“This would be for after the fact…. It is directed at the leaders, not the workers,” he said.
Phin Sophea, CLC representative at the River Rich textile factory in Kandal province’s Sa’ang district–where the CLC claim 35,000 workers will participate in the stoppages–said his factory had distributed a letter from GMAC attempting to convince workers not to join the strikes.
“What we did is abiding by legal procedures, so we are not concerned about possible intimidation,” he said.
The CLC has called for unaffiliated workers and those from other unions to participate in the strikes. Free Trade Union President Chea Mony, whose union will not be taking part, said yesterday that his workers were legally allowed to join in if they want.
“Garment workers have the right to join this strike. It’s their freedom,” he said.