Union Delays Strike Due to Asean Summit

Bowing to official pressure and claiming they are being threatened, a garment factory union has put off a looming strike until af­ter the Asean Summit concludes, of­ficials said Tuesday.

Members of the Independent So­lidarity Union at the Great Un­ion factory in Phnom Penh claim their attempts to demonstrate against the firing of union activist Long Saroun have been thwarted by intimidation from both public officials and private gangs.

“They are terrified,” Long Sa­roun said. “But the workers will go on strike after the Asean Summit.”

The issue has been coming to a head for months, ever since management at the factory, which makes clothes for US stores Wal-Mart and Target, fired Long Sa­run, one international labor acti­vist close to the case said. The un­ion had separately asked for the Min­istry of Social Affairs and Labor and the Ministry of Com­merce to intervene, but were rebuffed, the activist said.

When workers attempted to hold a demonstration on Monday and go on strike, they claim, gangs arrived and threatened the workers to go back to their lines.

The workers have taken their complaints both to Wal-Mart and Target officials.

“We ask you to investigate and pressure management to re-in­state Ms Saroun in her old job. Please do not cancel your contract at Great Union, but push management to comply with the law,” a letter written in both En­glish and Khmer and thumb-printed by union leaders states.

Great Union says they were acting within the law when they let Long Saroun go.

“We did not fire her. Her six- month contract was up. We won’t renew it,” factory administrator Ban Hoeun said.

Ban Hoeun also said his company did not threaten the work­ers in any way, nor asked anyone else to do so.

But at least one local official ac­knowledged Monday that he had pressured the union not to call an embarrassing strike while the world’s attention is focused on Phnom Penh.



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