S’Ville Workers Meet Governor, But No Solution

Striking workers from a Preah Sihanouk province garment factory spent several hours speaking with the provincial governor yesterday, but failed to reach a solution that would allow their suspended union representatives to return to work, workers and a union leader said.

The workers, from PY International in Preah Sihanouk City’s Buon commune, were prevented from marching to the office of the provincial government, according to Sum Sothea, chief of the labor dispute department at the Rights and Profits of Worker Federation Trade Union.

However, deputy governor Chev Kimheng then showed up at the protest and took several workers and union representative to Preah Sihanouk City Hall to discuss the situation, before provincial authorities asked them to come back in the afternoon and speak with governor Sboang Sarath, Mr Sothea said.

Despite meeting for many hours over the course of the day, no solution was found, he said. He added that a court-issued protection warrant ordering workers to return to their factories or face dismissal–issued on Wednesday–has now come into effect, meaning workers must return today.

“There is no solution for workers and there is only pressure on workers,” he said. “The court ordered workers to return to work.”

“I will pursue this case to the arbitration council,” Mr Sothea said.

More than 600 workers have been on strike since last Thursday to protest the dismissal of union representatives Mao Piseth and Sok Mary. Mr Piseth was suspended on Oct 23 for allegedly striking a senior manager, while Ms Mary was suspended after arguing with factory managers during last week’s strike, Phim Yoeun, one of the strikers, said.

Ms Yoeun said that, after marching along National Road 4 for about 6 km, about 40 police and military police officers arrived to block them.

“It is a way of putting pressure on freedom of expression,” she said.

Yov Khemara, director of the provincial labor department, said the situation has now exceeded the purview of the provincial governor.

“It is beyond his authority,” he said.

“If workers want to continue their demand, they have to return to work and let their representatives handle the problem at the arbitration center,” he added.


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