Union Complains of Spate of Illegal Garment Factory Firings

Union leader Pav Sina on Tuesday said garment factories around the country illegally fired dozens of his local representatives last year, far more than in 2013, and urged the government to help get their jobs back.

Mr. Sina’s Collective Union of Movement of Workers (CUMW) is one of the fastest growing unions in the country and was among the more strident during negotiations between the unions and factories over a new minimum wage for the garment sector last year.

At a press conference Tuesday, he said 65 of his representatives at several factories were illegally fired in 2014 for carrying out legitimate union activity, a sharp increase from the four who were fired the year before.

Mr. Sina said the CUMW also saw a spike in membership, from 28,000 in 2013 to 35,000 last year, and accused the factories of targeting his union because of its growing popularity and activity.

“The factories fired them without respecting the authority of the Labor Law,” he said. “I think the increase [in firings] is because we are more active than the other unions and our activity is public.”

The factories say the vast majority of strikes are illegal, justifying the firings.

But Mr. Sina on Tuesday insisted that his representatives organized strikes in compliance with the Labor Law, which stipulates that the right to strike “can be exercised only when all peaceful methods for settling the dispute with the employer have already been tried out.”

“We follow the procedure,” Mr. Sina said. “When there is a dispute, we ask the factory to negotiate. If they do not negotiate with us, then we send a complaint to the Labor Ministry. After that, we wait for seven days and then start to protest.”

He said officials at the Labor Ministry had repeatedly promised to look into his complaints of illegal firings but that he had yet to see them take any action. He also accused the courts of siding with the factories by ordering his members back to work anytime they strike.

Mr. Sina said his next move would be to turn to the international brands sourcing from the factories, in the hope that they pressure the employers to rehire the fired union members.

Spokesmen for the Labor Ministry could not be reached Tuesday. A spokesman for the Justice Ministry said he could not comment because he was out of town.

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