Judge Upholds Firing of Union Leader From Water Company

A municipal court judge ruled Wednesday that MPP Co Ltd,  makers of Ozone bottled water, had the right to fire a union leader and does not have to rehire him.

Oh Buniet, who had led an effort to unionize MPP, said Wednes­day he was not sure if he would appeal the decision.

Lean Chanda, who provided legal assistance to Oh Buniet, said Judge Koung Set issued the decision but did not explain the reasoning behind it. The judge declined to comment.

Observers in the courtroom said the judge was apparently convinced by the company’s argument that it had followed its own internal regulations for firing. They said the judge did not ad­dress whether those regulations complied with Cambodian labor law.

The dispute at MPP dates back to December of 2000, when union members first began trying to form a union. They claimed that two days after they began trying to organize, the company fired 10 of their members.

When other workers subsequently protested the firings, 73 of them were fired.

The workers filed suit, demand­ing their jobs back. They also appealed the firi­ngs to the Min­istry of Labor, which ruled that the company must rehire the workers. The company refused to take them back, pending a decision in the court case.

In May, the workers launched  the first consumer boycott in recent Cam­bodian history. The company also makes Pure Drop brand bottled water and Cheer Up fruit juice. The workers distributed 10,000 leaflets explaining the is­sues and asking customers not to buy the company’s products for a week. The boycott did not have a noticeable effect.

The other 82 plaintiffs in the case accepted cash settlements  and dropped out of the case, leaving Oh Buniet, who said Wednes­day he wants to think about the decision before deci­ding whether to appeal it.


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