More Protesting Workers Ordered to Return to Factory by Court

The Takeo provincial court issued an injunction Wednesday ordering workers from the Taiwanese-owned I-Cheng factory to return to work today after thousands went on strike following the sacking of five union organizers earlier this month.

The decision comes a day after the Phnom Penh Municipal Court ordered some 2,000 striking workers at the M&V International Manufacturing factory to return to work pending a decision on the dispute.

Nearly 2,000 workers from I-Cheng went on strike May 20 when the footwear factory in Bati district fired five representatives of the Coalition of Cambodian Apparel Workers Democratic Union (CCAWDU).

On Wednesday, the provincial court ordered workers to return to their jobs within 48 hours.

“If the workers and employees do not return to work within this timeframe and do not have proper reason, they will be considered as committing a serious mistake” said the injunction, signed by provincial court deputy prosecutor Chey Rithy.

The order stated that four of the fired workers—Pet Lina, Suon Song, Chea Srey Nuon and Khuon Vanthuok—would be temporarily suspended while the court investigates their cases.

Chheang Sophorn, the company’s lawyer, said one of the five workers had quit, while the others had a history of misconduct.

“Raising the claim that the factory discriminates against workers over their union [affiliation] is not reasonable because there are five unions in our factory already,” he added.

However, Ney Bunthoeun, a CCAWDU representative, said I-Cheng only wanted unions in the factory that would help keep workers quiet. “I understand that our representatives were fired because we protect workers’ rights. They only want government-aligned unions,” he said.

Chea Srey Nuon, 24, one of the CCAWDU representatives laid off by the factory, said she advised workers Thursday to return to the factory.

“I called striking workers to return to work [today] because I don’t want them to be in a confrontation with the authority or the court,” she said. “We are not happy with the court’s decision because it violates the worker’s rights, but we have no choice.”

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