Garment workers will strike today at Jacqsintex Industries Cambodia Co Ltd to protest the Garment Manufacturers Association in Cambodia’s rejection of a labor dispute ruling, a union president said Thursday.
The GMAC rebuff is part of a larger campaign designed to soil the Arbitration Council’s reputation and suppress union activity, labor officials said.
Coalition of Cambodian Apparel Workers Democratic Union President Chhorn Sokha said strikers will revert to demonstrations if police intervene. GMAC’s rejection of the Arbitration Council’s pro-worker labor law interpretation crowns a long history of anti-union collusion between employers and the Labor Ministry, she said.
The Arbitration Council, governed by employer, worker and Labor Ministry representatives, issued on July 23 a ruling favorable to two Jacqsintex union members dismissed for expired contracts.
The council ordered that the workers be reinstated. It determined short-term contracts may not exceed a period of two years. If they exceed two years, they automatically become a contract for work in perpetuity, or an unfixed contract.
An Aug 4 letter written by Department of Labor Secretary-General Oum Mean, endorsed by Labor Minister Ith Sam Heng, said short-term, fixed contracts may be extended indefinitely without becoming an unfixed contract.
The transition from fixed to unfixed duration contracts helps to ensure job security for workers and often carries the possibility of higher salaries.
GMAC, on behalf of Jacqsintex, rejected the ruling due to the alleged bias of arbitrator An Nan, a Cambodian Labor Organization lawyer.
An Nan served as an arbitrator and as the plaintiff’s lawyer in an earlier labor dispute.
The CLO “is an openly pro-labor NGO that acted more like a union than an NGO,” GMAC stated last week. GMAC called the ruling invalid.
An Nan said Wednesday that GMAC’s complaint is unfounded, as the CLO is an NGO working to help both unions and managers.
“GMAC wants to fight with the Arbitration Council because it awards help to unions,” he said.
International Labor Organization Chief Technical Adviser Hugo Van Noord said An Nan’s pro-labor background was balanced by another arbitrator who heard the case who was from a law firm with a business clientele.
“The conflict of interest has been discussed early in the hearing, and both parties had the opportunity to make objections and they did not do it,” Van Noord said Wednesday. “The employer stated that he was aware of Mr An Nan’s employment with the CLO, and he did not see a reason to object to Mr An Nan’s presence.”
The conflict may now be resolved through strikes or the courts, Van Noord said.