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Minister delays letter to end strikes

Minister delays letter to end strikes

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Workers employed by the Tai Yang Enterprises Co clash with police during a protest in Kandal province last month. Photograph: Meng Kimlong/Phnom Penh Post

It's been marked by violence, fervent protests and a stream of recriminations, but now bureaucracy is hampering efforts to resolve the seven-week-long strike at the Tai Yang and Camwell factories, which supply Levi’s and Gap, a trade-union advocate said yesterday.

Dave Welsh, country director of the American Center for International Labor Solidarity, told the Post yesterday that Social Affairs Minister Ith Sam Heng was delaying penning a letter to the factory owners that would likely end the dispute.

“It’s incredibly frustrating,” Welsh said yesterday after a meeting with the remaining 40 strikers. “It could have been resolved two Fridays ago.”

Welsh met with Sam Heng on August 3 to discuss the letter, which would order the company to reinstate strikers it claims to have sacked.

“The minister assured me, and went on TV to say, that he would write a letter,” Welsh said. “Now he’s saying it needs to go through two or three committees for approval. It’s absolutely ridiculous. Policy and new law has to go through committees, not a minister’s letter.”

Welsh said the issue was “ludicrously simple to resolve” and one that Levi’s and Gap supported.

Unions have claimed as many as 4,000 workers have been involved in the strike at the co-owned factories in Kandal province’s Ang Snuol district since June 25.

Many returned to work after accepting a seniority bonus offer that Welsh said “had no basis in law”, while the remaining 40 strikers have continued to defy court orders to return.

Yang Sophorn, president of the Cambodian Alliance of Trade Unions, said workers were frustrated no letter had been issued.

“The workers are disappointed with the ministry and ACILS,” she said.

Wu Minghuor, manager of the two factories, said yesterday his factory had given the strikers many chances and would not accept them back – letter or no letter.

“They are not our company workers anymore. They are [Cambodian Confederation of Unions president] Rong Chhun’s workers,” he said.

Chhun said he awaited Sam Heng’s letter.

Sam Heng could not be reached for comment, while Levi’s and Gap did not respond to queries.

To contact the reporters on this story: Shane Worrell at [email protected]
Mom Kunthear at [email protected]

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