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Dismissed SL workers key to resolution

A meeting at the Ministry of Labour and Vocational Training yesterday, held amid a three-month strike that led to a deadly riot on Tuesday, failed to reach an agreement between SL Garment Processing (Cambodia) Ltd and union officials.

The negotiation, attended by SL chief executive Wong Hon Ming, lasted about four hours, during which he refused to reinstate 19 employees who are members of the Coalition of Cambodian Apparel Workers’ Democratic Union (C.CAWDU) and who have been sued by SL.

“Those 19 unionists are responsible for our company losing a lot of profit, so we can’t accept those people back,” he said through a Cambodian-Chinese translator.

C.CAWDU and SL management agreed on several points, including an agreement that SL would pay workers 50 per cent of the wages they would have earned during the strike, and that shareholder Meas Sotha – who hired armed military police to stand guard inside the factory – would no longer be associated with the factory.

David Welsh, country director of labour rights group Solidarity Center/ACILS, questioned the singling out of the 19 unionists, though held out hope for an agreement.

“Continuing to penalise the entire union leadership is difficult to accept. All other [points] seem close to resolution,” Welsh said, adding that both sides agreed to make whatever efforts necessary to quell violence.

C.CAWDU secretary general Ek Sopheakdey and about 40 union representatives who attended the meeting said if there is no agreement by today, the SL strike will grow.

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