Union Leader’s Suspension Leads To Strike 0f 700 Workers

About 700 garment workers at a Phnom Penh factory went on strike Monday, protesting unfair working conditions and the suspension of their union leader.

The strike follows similar act­ions by other disgruntled Cambo­dian workers, and comes just days before an organized Inter­national Labor Day demonstration, which leaders claim could draw as many as 5,000 protesters.

Monday’s strike was called to protest the dismissal of Eam You­long, president of the union local at Luen Thai Garment Ltd, which produces Ralph Lauren designer clothing among other items.

Officials from the Free Trade Un­ion of the Workers of the King­­dom of Cambodia claim he was suspended in January after being falsely accused of owing vic­tims $300 from a motorcycle accident. The current law forbids any­one with a criminal record from being a union leader.

“They are not happy with me when I help out Cambodian work­ers,” Eam Youlong said. “Since early 2000 after I helped workers protest, the garment factory owners were trying to dismiss me from my job in order to threaten Cambodian workers.”

Factory officials could not be reached for comment. Factory representatives told The Assoc­iat­ed Press that the union representative was given leave with pay to deal with his legal problems and that the un­ion was in­tim­idating workers into striking.

Katja Hemmerich, a union spokes­wom­an, said Eam You­long never saw a police letter claiming he was involved in a traffic accident.

“It is clear that the police and the management of Luen Thai are working together,” a union state­ment said.

Mom Vey, deputy police chief of Meanchey district, said the police had not forged a letter. He said Eam Youlong was in­volved in a “small traffic problem.”

Workers were notified Satur­day Eam Youlong would not be rehired and organized the strike, according to union officials. They marched from the factory to the Na­tional Assembly, where they were met by opposition leader Sam Rainsy, who led them to the US embassy.

An embassy official met briefly with workers. The workers then moved to the Ministry of Labor in hopes of negotiating a resolution.

Kai Boren, inspection official of the Labor Ministry, declined comment. Kai Boren has been one of the key negotiators of the Eam You­long case, according to the union. Workers plan to continue negotiations today.

The 700 workers make up about 80 percent of the work force at Luen Thai Garment (Cambodia).


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