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CLEC accuses factory boss of breaking law

An open letter from a workers rights advocate released on Wednesday accuses a high-ranking member of Cambodia’s garment manufacturers association of breaking the Kingdom’s Labour Law.

The letter, penned by Moeun Tola, head of the labour program at the Community Legal Education Center (CLEC), says Larry Kao, manager of Manhattan Textile and Garment Corp, refuses to reinstate three union leaders in his factory after the Arbitration Council ruled they should be rehired. Kao also serves as deputy treasurer of the Garment Manufacturers Association in Cambodia’s (GMAC) Executive Council.

“Arbitrators ruled decisively that Manhattan Textile had engaged in union discrimination,” Tola’s letter reads. “However, half a year later, Mr Larry Kao’s Manhattan Textile refuses to accept the union leadership back to work.”

In January, Manhattan fired 107 members of the Cambodian Alliance of Trade Unions (CATU). They rehired most back but refuse to reinstate Phan Chany, CATU’s vice president at the factory, union treasurer Peng Phalla and union activist Thorn Singhua, Tola’s letter says. The refusal came after the Arbitration Council ruled the three should be reinstated.

Tola, in the letter, calls for the unionists’ reinstatement, a fine of 61 to 90 days of the base daily wage and/or imprisonment of six days to one month, as per the Labour Law.

“My union always respects the law and the agreement, but the company did not,” said CATU president Yang Sophorn. “I still support the workers who demand the union members and representatives are allowed to return to work.”

A GMAC spokesman did not respond to phone calls and messages yesterday. Kao could not be reached.

Kao’s refusal to obey Arbitration Council decisions sets a poor example for others in the garment sector, Tola said in a phone interview.

“If GMAC wants its neighbour to follow the law, I think especially the owner of Manhattan factory, who is the [treasurer] in GMAC . . . should be a model for GMAC.”

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