Most of the nearly 3,000 garment workers involved in a week of sporadic strikes outside a Phnom Penh factory returned to work yesterday, according to a factory representative.
Eric Mah, administration and human resources manager at PCCS garment factory in the capital’s Sen Sok district, said the company obtained a court order–which came into effect at noon yesterday–requiring workers to return or face dismissal.
“A few hundred” workers defied the order and remained on strike yesterday, he said. These workers will be fired today, he added.
“Now we have no choice,” he said.
Workers first walked out on July 21 following the suspension of a union representative. Following violent clashes with intervention police on Tuesday, many of the striking workers returned to the factory on Wednesday morning–only to walk out again in the afternoon.
Kuy Tep Daravouth, director of the Labor Ministry’s labor dispute department, said that the ministry had asked the Labor Advisory Committee to resolve the dispute earlier this week.
On Wednesday the LAC advised all the workers to return to their jobs except Man Channa, the union official whose suspension on July 19 prompted workers to walk out, Free Trade Union Secretary-General Srey Kim Heng said.
Factory managers have accused Ms Channa of falsifying medical certificates, and claim to have submitted a complaint to the municipal court. However on Tuesday Ms Channa claimed she was suspended for protesting against a factory regulation requiring workers to submit medical certificates to cover all absences.
Mr Mah said factory management met with union leaders yesterday in an attempt to find a solution, but that unions demanded that Ms Channa be reinstated pending investigation. He said management would not consider this while her case was being investigated.
“If she has done nothing wrong we will pay her for this time and reinstate her,” he said.
Prak Savouth, chief clerk for the municipal court prosecutor, said yesterday he had not seen the complaint against Ms Channa yet.
Ken Loo, secretary-general of the Garment Manufacturers Association of Cambodia, said workers had been ordered to return because the strike had not been conducted in accordance with Cambodian labor law.
“The court made its ruling not on the matter of the dispute, but on the legality of the strike itself,” he said.
Mr Loo added that as far as he was aware the factory had followed the letter of the law regarding Ms Channa’s suspension.
FTU President Chea Mony said yesterday that workers were committed to continuing the strike despite pressure from the factory management.
“The workers need their representative back,” he said.