Hun Sen Weighs In on Garment Strikes

Prime Minister Hun Sen yesterday called for garment sector workers and employers to reconcile their differences for the good of the industry, and urged the courts to drop legal action against workers involved in this month’s strikes.

“I suggest that the court drop the accusations against the workers as well as the union leaders and ask all factories to please accept back the workers,” he said.

The Prime Minister’s comments, made at a university graduation ceremony in Phnom Penh, echo earlier government statements requesting factories to stop legal action, and reinforce the government’s role as mediator in the ongoing dispute over pay and benefits that led to the strikes.

Following four days of work stoppages from Sept 13 to 16, factories pursued civil lawsuits against roughly 150 union activists they felt had incited workers to strike. Unions claim hundreds more workers have been dismissed for taking part in the industry-wide strikes.

Judge In Van Vibol, chief of the provincial court in Kandal Province, where most of the strikes took place, declined to comment yesterday.

Ken Loo, secretary-general of the Garment Manufacturers Association in Cambodia, said the association would pass Mr Hun Sen’s message on to their members.

“In the end, it is the prerogative of the factories whether to go ahead or not,” he said.

Sung Chung Men, manager at the River Rich Textile factory in Kandal province–one of those pursuing civil complaints against workers–said the factory was taking legal advice before deciding whether to drop the complaints.

Mr Hun Sen also warned unions to respect the labor law and try to settle disputes through arbitration rather than strike action.

Ath Thon, president of the Cambodian Labor Confederation, said he welcomed the Prime Minister’s comments because he felt the unions had respected the law during the stoppages.

He said he hoped the legal challenges against workers would end now that the Prime Minister had made his opinion known.

Rong Chhun, president of the Cambodian Confederation of Unions, also applauded the Prime Minister for trying to defuse the situation, but said that the right to strike, while a last resort, must be protected.



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