Unions to Mount Another Campaign in November

One of the unions that led last month’s garment industry strikes will launch “a new campaign” if its workers and representatives are not allowed to return to work by the end of the month, the union president said yesterday.

Ath Thon, president of the Cambodian Labor Confederation, called on employers to take back workers who have been frozen out of their factories since the Sept 13 to 16 strikes, but said the union would not necessarily resort to work stoppages.

“A new campaign will start in November if there is no solution,” he said.

The latest CLC figures claim 94 union representatives are still suspended for their part in the strikes, while 683 workers were dismissed for refusing to return to work. The Garment Manufacturers Association in Cambodia claims that 67 representatives are suspended and that 358 workers were fired.

Kong Athit, CLC secretary-general, said going back on strike was “a last resort.”

The union will first make an official plea to the government to kick-start the process, Mr Athit said. Following that, they plan to appeal to buyers and the international community for help, he said.

Only after those options are exhausted will the union talk to its members about the possibility of strikes, he said.

Mr Athit said the union has established a ‘strike fund’ to give financial assistance to the suspended workers and representatives, and called on the government to offer economic aid as well.

Phin Sophea, CLC representative at the River Rich Textile factory in Kandal province’s Sa’ang district, said officials from the Ministry of Social Affairs said he could return to work if he signed a document saying he would refrain from conducting illegal strikes.

He said he refused because he did not believe last month’s strikes were illegal.

Ken Loo, GMAC secretary-general, said the association would respond if the unions mounted another campaign.

“If the union escalate…then we will do similarly. There will be more legal action, more suspensions, more people dismissed,” he said.

Mr Loo said he believed a meeting on worker benefits would be scheduled soon, but that GMAC would not participate–or consider taking back suspended workers–without an apology.

“We need an apology letter. Failing which, negotiations will not happen,” he said.


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