THE Phnom Penh Municipal Court has ordered around 160 striking garment factory workers to return to work within 48 hours and has given the company permission to fire three union representatives accused of inciting the workers to strike.
The workers have been camping outside the Sun Ly Fong garment factory in Meanchey district since Tuesday last week, agitating for improved working conditions.
Worker representatives said they were informed yesterday of a court order signed by Judge Kim Dany on Tuesday, which stated that their action had been deemed “an illegal strike”.
According to Article 337 of the Cambodian Labour Law, if a strike is declared illegal “the strikers must return to work within 48 hours” of the declaration. “A worker who, without valid reason, fails to return to work by the end of this period is considered guilty of serious misconduct,” the law states.
Municipal Court officials could not be reached for comment yesterday, and it was unclear why the strike had been deemed illegal, or what the consequences would be for strikers who did not return to work before the deadline.
The workers are making eight demands to the factory’s management, including a request that workers receive US$80 in severance pay for every year they have worked at the factory – a request that some union officials have said is not legal under labour laws.
Hourt Bora, whom authorities have identified as a ringleader of the strike along with fellow worker representatives Ien Pov and Nun Chamnan, yesterday denied responsibility for the action.
“The company filed a complaint to the Municipal Court accusing the three of us of inciting the workers to hold a strike to demand approval of eight points from the company,” he said. “But in fact, all the workers did it voluntarily after they had been oppressed by the factory owner for over 10 years.”
He said that the strikers will not go back to work if he and the other representatives are fired.
“The workers’ stance is that if we resume work, we will resume all together, but if we are suspended from our job, we are all willing to be suspended together,” he said.
Sok Nan, deputy administrative director of the Sun Ly Fong factory, could not be reached for comment yesterday.