Union Leaves Workers To Face Courts Alone, Representatives Claim

Three union representatives who led a strike at a Phnom Penh garment factory in August faced questioning at the municipal court yesterday while claiming that their CPP-affiliated union president had “abandoned” them.

The court questioned Ien Pov, Huot Bora and Nonn Chamnan in relation to a civil suit filed by the San Lei Fung garment factory in Meanchey district, Judge Kim Dany said yesterday.

Mr Pov, a union representative formerly with the Cambodian Labor Union Federation–a union aligned with the CPP-affiliated National Union Alliance Chamber of Cambodia–said union president Som Oun did not support workers during the eight-day strike, despite encouraging them to hold the work stoppage in the first place.

“He didn’t come to help the workers. Why did he encourage workers to go on strike and then abandoned them?” he said.

Mr Pov said Mr Oun dismissed him from the union two days after the strike began and just before the factory filed a lawsuit against the three union representatives alleging incitement and destruction of property and claiming $60,000 in compensation from each.

“When we were on strike [our leader] ran away from workers…and accused us of making illegal demands,” Mr Pov said.

Factory representatives contacted yesterday declined to comment as they claimed they were not familiar with the case.

The workers at San Lei Fung went on strike from Aug 17 to 25 demanding higher wages, improved benefits and a pension scheme, workers said yesterday.

Union president Mr Oun yesterday denied that he had turned his back on his members.

“They conducted a strike without following legal procedure…. If they don’t listen to me I will not be responsible for their problem,” he said.

“We don’t ignore [Mr Pov], but he ignores me,” he added.

San Lei Fung worker Rin Saviet, 30, also appeared in court yesterday as a witness, claimed that union representatives had done nothing wrong.

“Of course we were not wrong under the law and we didn’t destroy company property and cause harm to other workers,” she said.

Judge Dany declined to say when she would hand down a ruling in the matter.


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