Factory Faces Suspension of Export Privileges

The Ministry of Labor requested last week that the Ministry of Commerce prohibit a garment factory from exporting its goods as punishment for labor law violations, the strongest government motion to uphold workers’ rights in recent history, labor officials said Sunday.

Labor Minister Ith Sam Heng issued a letter July 2 to Com­merce Minister Cham Prasidh re­questing the suspension of all ex­ports from Russei Keo district’s Splendid Chance International Ltd because the factory has refused to pay a $504 fine and reinstate three fired union leaders—orders issued by the Labor Ministry in February and April, respectively.

Cham Prasidh could not be reached for comment Sunday.

Factory manager Lin Chih Wen said he agreed to the workers’ immediate reinstatement Friday, following the advice of Com­merce Ministry officials, but denied violating the law.

Factories must pursue grievances with union members through the Labor Ministry be­fore dismissing them. But Lin Chih Wen said the workers—Sorn Mean, Ly Bun Sao and Kim Yong—delivered proof of their union affiliation after their dismissal, too late for him to appeal.

Coalition of Cambodian Ap­parel Workers Union President Chhorn Sokha said the government action was a huge victory for the workers’ movement but noted the Labor Ministry’s mo­tion conveniently coincided with election season.

“This is the time for election campaigns, so the ministry wants to calm workers and show their support for the labor votes,” she said.

Chhorn Sokha said the Labor Ministry may also have been mo­tivated by heightened scrutiny by the US government, which suggested last month that Cambo­dia’s garment quota may be re­duced if workers’ rights were not respected. Labor Ministry inspector In Khemara would not comment on Sunday.

Garment Manufacturers As­soci­ation in Cambodia co-Vice Chairman Roger Tan said he did not agree with the Labor Minis­try’s request to the Commerce Ministry. “What’s the use of investing if [the company] cannot export?” he asked.


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