Workers Call for Leaders’ Return

Union Files Demands Ahead of Negotiations

Thousands of garment workers were still on strike and hundreds held demonstrations at three factories in Kandal province yesterday, calling for the reinstatement of union representatives who were suspended following last week’s industry-wide strikes.

Workers say they will not return until 25 union representatives from River Rich Textile factory, 19 from Goldfame Enterprises (Int’l) knitters and 10 from Winner knitting factory, all in the province’s Sa’ang district, are reinstated.

“As soon as my representatives are allowed to go to work, I will go to work immediately,” said Saro Sara, 22, a worker at River Rich.

GMAC last week filed civil complaints against more than 50 union representatives who helped organize the stoppages. The representatives were suspended pending the results of these court proceedings.

Most affected factories have also obtained court injunctions requiring workers to return within 48 hours or face dismissal.

Sung Chung Men of River Rich Textile factory, where around fifty workers were demonstrating yesterday, said the factory would fire any worker who had not gone back tomorrow.

“We have no choice. Our lawyers say wait until tomorrow,” he said.

“I’m not afraid of losing my job, but I want my representatives to get their jobs back,” said Leut Sophanith, a worker who protested outside Goldfame yesterday.

At least 10 military police were observed inside Goldfame yesterday. They were there to protect both the workers and the factory, according to Oun Son, deputy district military police commander, though he said he did not know how many police were deployed.

Kong Athit, secretary-general of the Cambodian Labor Confederation, which led the strikes alongside the Cambodian National Confederation, said the workers were now acting independently of the union. He added that the union had “no right to stop them.”

GMAC issued a statement yesterday reaffirming the association’s commitment to pursuing legal action against those who led the strikes.

The three and a half days of strikes cost the sector more than $15 million, and the association supports employers in seeking “justice and compensation,” the statement read.

Moeun Tola, head of the labor project at the Community Legal Education Center, said continued legal action would undermine upcoming negotiations.

“If the leaders still have lawsuits against them it will not be faithful negotiations because one party still has a loaded gun,” he said.

The strikes were called off last Thursday after the Ministry of Social Affairs announced a meeting to discuss increased benefits on Sept 27. The unions were instructed to submit their demands by Sept 23.

Those demands were submitted today, according to the CLC’s Mr Ahtit. There were five in total, he said: increasing an existing monthly seniority bonus to $2 per year of employment; changing the overtime meal allowance to 1000 riel per hour; doubling an existing $5 bonus for perfect attendance; adding a new $10 transport and healthcare bonus; and giving workers a decent living wage of $93.

He did say, however, that he did not expect the last of these to be granted during this round of negotiations.

(Additional reporting by Neou Vannarin)

 

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