Workers who have been told they have been sacked for striking at the co-owned Tai Yang and Camwell factories will forget about their seniority bonuses – for now – if they are reinstated, unions and an advocacy group said yesterday.
In an attempt to end one of the longest strikes in the industry’s history, the American Center for International Labor Solidarity (ACILS) made pleas for the reinstatement of 37 workers to the Ministry of Social Affairs and buyer Levi’s late last week.
Yang Sophorn, president of the Cambodian Alliance of Trade Unions, said yesterday the workers, who were recently told they had been fired after striking since June 25 over seniority bonuses, would return to the Ang Snuol district factories in Kandal province if a deal was struck.
“I will allow the workers to go back to work when I get an agreement from the ACILS following its meeting [on Friday] with the Ministry of Social Affairs about our case,” she said.
“As for our demands over seniority bonuses, the ACILS will take time to negotiate this at a later date,” Sophorn said.
ACILS country director Dave Welsh said he had spoken to the ministry and a regional Levi’s representative in an attempt to have the workers reinstated – a move that could end the strike.
“We had discussions involving reinstating the workers,” he said, adding the issue of seniority bonuses would be on hold – ideally, to be negotiated later.
Welsh said Levi’s had been concerned that the strikers had defied court orders to return to work, but he said this defiance had followed the factories offering bonuses below the legal minimum.
“What the factory has done is not legal. You can’t negotiate outside the labour law, ” said Welsh.
Workers claim Tai Yang changed its name to Tai Nan in 2010 to strip workers of their seniority bonuses.
Negotiations between the workers’ unions – CATU and the Cambodian Confederation of Unions – and the factory broke down in mid-July after management offered workers a package that included $70 per year in seniority bonuses.
Manager Wu Menghuor said most of the workers had accepted the offer.
“There were 4,274 workers who agreed to take the money and there are 226 workers more who did not,” he said.
Sophorn claimed yesterday as many as 50 per cent of workers had resigned since June 25.
CCU president Rong Chhun believed the figure was more like 15 to 20 per cent. Menghuor maintained some 90 per cent were back at work.