Fired Workers Call For Boycott on Ozone’s Bottled Water

Workers fired from the MPP Co Ltd, makers of Ozone brand bottled water, launched what may be the first consumer boycott in Cambo­dian history Wednes­day.

“Don’t buy Ozone water produced by MPP,” was the message on thousands of leaflets distributed around Phnom Penh by the workers, who say they were illegally fired six months ago for forming a union.

“Two days after creating a new union recognized by the government’s Ministry of Labor, 10 mem­bers of the union were dismissed,” the leaflet states, claiming that when other workers pro­tested, 73 more were fired.

None have been rehired, de­spite an order from the Ministry of Labor, the leaflet states.

“Please give your support to workers [who are] creating an independent union and free union activities,” it reads.

The workers are asking consumers not to buy three MPP products—Ozone and Pure Drop brand bottled water, and Cheer Up fruit juice—during the week that ends May 30.

“We realize that this boycott might cause MPP workers to lose their jobs if it works,” the leaf­let said. “But it is not appropriate to exploit Cambodian workers, who have a poor living standard.”

A company spokeswoman dismissed the boycott as an attempt to influence a pending court case over the firings. “The court will decide” on Friday, she said. “What they advertise is not true and they just want me to lose.”

She said the company is not opposed to a union, but wants the court case settled first and the activists to stop pressuring other workers to join the union.

Labor and human rights officials said they could not recall any consumer boycott in Cambodia in the past.

Protesters distributed leaflets in five areas of the city, said An Nan, a legal assistant at the Cambodian Labor Organization who helped to plan the boycott.

“Today, we distribute 10,000 leaflets,” An Nan said.

Activists will wait seven to 10 days for a response, he said; if none is forthcoming, they will distribute 50,000 leaflets in the city and the provinces.

Water vendors looked blank Wed­­nesday when asked if they would support a boycott.

“I’ve never heard of this kind of action,” said Sros, 17, at her stand out­side Calmette Hospital.

“It’s just an internal problem” between the workers and MPP, she said, adding she would continue to sell Ozone water despite the boycott.

Savun, a 17-year-old vendor at Cen­tral Market, said he will sell what­ever the distributor drops off at his cooler.

“It’s not Ozone,” he said, holding up a bottle of Pure Drop, MPP’s other brand.

But at the Bokor Star Conven­ience Market at the intersection of Monivong and Mao Tse-tung boulevards, mechanic Nov Sav­ong, 26, said he will be happy to support the boycott.

He said he buys a liter a day, and that while Ozone is the cheap­est, he will switch brands because “Cambodian workers are poor. This damages their interest a lot. The company is wrong.”



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