About 40 recently fired workers who claim a company illegally dismissed them faced off yesterday against local authorities and police outside the company’s Meanchey district offices in Phnom Penh.
Protesters and union officials refused to obey orders from the deputy district governor and commune chief to move from the entrance of concrete pillar manufacturer KC Gecin Enterprises on National Road 2 in Chak Angre Loeu commune.
The workers chanted and held banners demanding the company reinstate about 60 people fired last week without adequate explanation, allegedly over attempts to form a union.
Meanchey district deputy governor By Sophan said that rallies are not authorized on the road, because Prime Minister Hun Sen uses it to travel from his residence.
“The dispute is between them [the protesters] and the company, but the local authorities have come to restore social order,” Mr Sophan said.
Nget Sam Ol, chief of administration at KC Gecin Enterprises, denied the workers’ accusations that they were dismissed because they wanted to form a union, saying they had simply become redundant.
“The company has very few jobs to do, so how can I let them come back to work?” he asked.
Moeun Tola, head of the labor program at the Community Legal Education Center, said the workers plan to resume protesting tomorrow despite fears of a police crackdown.
“I think it is a kind of intimidation, and the authorities should also think that the company violated labor law and the Constitution of Cambodia,” Mr Tola said.
Protester Nuch Sopheap said that she would not give up the battle to return to work and join a union.
“I will fight to get my job back. I will not surrender to the company,” she said.
Touch Sopha, an inspection official at the municipal labor department, said he did not know for certain if the workers and unionists or the company management had violated the law.
“If I find a solution for them through mediation and they do not agree, then I will send this case to the arbitration council,” he said.