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Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Strikers back union leaders

Strikers back union leaders

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Garment workers protest outside the Cambo Handsome factory in Phnom Penh yesterday.

More than 100 workers at Cambo Handsome 1 garment factory went on strike yesterday, calling on the South Korean-owned firm to withdraw charges against a union leader it accused of stealing two T-shirts from the factory.

The workers had four other demands, but a company representative said they would not accept them and insisted it had not violated labour laws.

Cambo Handsome customer relations manager Scot Do said the union leader had been apprehended by a security guard at the factory on November 25 with two T-shirts. The company’s “brand protection policy” prevented him from naming the brand, he said, but later admitted that the T-shirts were bound for outlets of The Gap.

Cambo Handsome, a unit of global supplier Hansoll Textile, which is headquartered in Seoul, has five garment factories in Cambodia that employ more than 7,000 workers who make apparel for a number of brands.

Yesterday’s strike was at one of its two factories in Choam Chao commune, Dangkor district. Besides calling for the withdrawal of charges against union leader Vann Rin, the workers also demanded that he and two other union representatives who had been suspended be reinstated. They also demanded that the company change its security guards and provide a transportation fee for workers who live far from the factory.

Federation of Labour Friendship Union president Sieng Sambath said the main reason for the strike was the suspension of three union representatives. He said that early yesterday “about 1,000 workers blocked the way into Prey Sar market for about one hour to put pressure on the company to negotiate with them”. After police asked them to move to prevent causing traffic congestion they obliged, he said.

Sieng Sambath said the workers would strike again today if the company and the Ministry of Labour did not resolve the issues fairly.

Huot Sok, a legal officer at the company, said workers were not protesting against violations of the Labour Law but were trying to stir up trouble.  

Scot Do said police were investigating Vann Rin’s alleged theft of two Gap T-shirts.

Huot Sok said the other two union representatives had attempted to disrupt the factory’s production process and the company had followed the legal process in suspending them.

It had filed a complaint with the police accusing Vann Rin of theft and wanted him sentenced by the court, Huot Sok said.

Dangkor district police chief Born Sam Ath declined to say where the investigation was at.

Va Yuvathana, director of the Ministry’s Labour’s dispute resolution office, described the dispute as uncommon. The ministry had invited both sides to negotiate, but so far had been unable to settle.

A media relations officer at The Gap’s UK office said it had a team of independent investigators to look into issues in its supply chain, but did not say whether it had been alerted to this particular issue yet.

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