For the third time in less than two weeks garment factory workers outside Phnom Penh’s PCCS garment factory went on strike on Friday before approximately 100 police and military police deployed in front of the factory ordered protesters to strike inside the factory’s compound, union officials and police said.
Workers at the Malaysian-owned factory first decided to stage a walk out on July 21 following the suspension of Free Trade Union representative Mann Channa, who was accused of falsifying medical certificates and is currently on trial at Phnom Penh Municipal Court.
“There is no fruitful resolution so far which is why workers are sill striking and demanding that [the factory] rehire their representative,” said Free Trade Union Secretary-General Kim Heng on Friday.
Free Trade Union President Chea Mony, said that managers at the factory had violated the labor law by hiring temporary workers to replace those on strike.
“Police forced the garment workers to go inside and make the protest inside the factory compound,” he said.
Eric Mah, administration and human resources manager at PCCS, said that all of the roughly 3,000 garment workers had come back to work but were staging a sit-in protest within the confines of the factory.
“Now we have to seek advice from our lawyer and speak to the labor officer and we will see what they are going to say,” he said.
Mr Mah confirmed reports from trade unions that the factory had employed new workers to take on the workload.
“We have to get somebody to do the work,” he said, adding that between 100 and 200 workers had been brought in.
Albert Tan, treasurer for the Garment Manufacturers Association in Cambodia, said there was no legal implications for a factory wanting to hire temporary workers if its labor force was on strike.
“If there is a strike going on and there is a court order out for them to go back to work the factory owners have the right to hire workers,” he said.
Mr Mah said that he hoped strike actions would settle down by Aug 5 when the Phnom Penh Municipal Court is due to issue the verdict of Ms Channa.
Mr Mah declined to detail the accusations made against Ms Channa due to the ongoing status of investigations.
Contacted by telephone on Friday, Sen Sok district police chief Mak Hong said police had been positioned outside the factory to ensure that the strike was conducted in a peaceful manner.
“I want them to strike inside the factory compound to restore traffic order,” he said. “It is good that they are striking inside the factory’s compounds.”
He added that there appeared to be a high number of police positioned at the factory on Friday because of a heightened number of convoys carrying diplomats and government officials on their way to the closing ceremony of a US-sponsored peacekeeping exercise in Kompong Speu.
Union officials said this week that police had injured at least two female garment workers in order to bring the strike to an end.