Grand Twins International garment factory in Phnom Penh on Tuesday allowed more than 600 workers to return to their posts after firing them a day earlier for failing to show up at work on Saturday, workers and union representatives said.
An employee list was posted on the gate of the factory in Pur Senchey district on Monday with the names of about 650 workers who did not come to work on Saturday crossed off, accompanied by a notice announcing they had been fired.
But workers who returned Tuesday morning to discover they had been fired claimed they thought they were not due to return to work until Tuesday, following a six-day stretch in which only Saturday was not a national holiday, said Lor Layheang, 29, a team leader and union representative in the factory.
After negotiations with management, the workers were allowed to return to their posts, she said.
“All the workers went back to work this morning, including more than 600 workers whose names were on the fired list on Tuesday,” Ms. Layheang said, adding that the company asked those who had been fired to sign a form asking to be rehired.
However, many of the employees refused to sign the form because they were afraid it was a ploy by the company to rehire them as new employees, which would mean they would lose any accrued benefits, according to Nget Sokhak, secretary-general of the Trade Union Federation For Workers, which represents some workers at Grand Twins.
“The company asked the workers who did not come to work on Saturday to fill out a resignation form and if they wanted to return to work, they had to fill out a new form,” he said.
Mr. Sokhak said union representatives held a meeting with factory management and Prak Chanthoeun, director-general of the Labor Ministry’s general department of labor conflict, which led to all workers returning to work whether they signed the document or not.
Mr. Chanthoeun said he met with Grand Twins management Tuesday afternoon and persuaded the company to let the fired workers return to their jobs, but said another meeting had been scheduled to clarify the matter.
“We requested that the company accept them back and they are back at work already…but there will be another meeting between representatives of the company, representatives of the workers and the general department of labor conflict to find an appropriate solution,” he said.
The Taiwanese-owned factory, which is one of only two companies listed on the Cambodia Securities Exchange, has faced ongoing strikes over wages and working conditions but won a court injunction last month ordering workers back to their stations until the dispute is settled.
Ken Loo, secretary-general of the Garment Manufacturers Association in Cambodia, which counts Grand Twins as a member, said the outcome Tuesday was positive, adding that the company acted within its rights under the terms of the court order.
“The company treated the workers as though they had abandoned their jobs in accordance with the court order, but when they came back and explained that Saturday fell between two holidays the factory reached a compromise,” he said. “I think that is a good outcome overall.”
Representatives of Grand Twins could not be reached for comment.