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Tai Yang strikers lose arbitration

121217 03b

Workers from the Tai Yang factory block traffic on National Road 4 during a protest earlier this year. Photograph: Vireak Mai/Phnom Penh Post

Garment workers who say they were sacked for a months-long strike at three factories supplying Gap and Levi’s have hit a stumbling block in their bid for compensation.

In a ruling released on Thursday, the Arbitration Council said Tai Yang Enterprises, in Kandal province’s Ang Snuol district, had no obligation to reinstate or pay severance to 53 workers who lost their jobs in August after defying company and provincial court orders to end strikes.

The Arbitration Council “rejected their demands asking for their employer to reinstate 53 workers . . . or pay them for ending their contracts”, the ruling says.

Workers were aware of the provincial court injunction but had ignored it, the document adds. “So the Arbitration Council finds that they abandoned their work.”

On June 25, thousands went on strike outside three fact-ories – Tai Yang I, II and Cam-well – over seniority bonuses.

The strike, which involved 4,000 people at its peak but for the most part involved fewer than 100, lasted for more than two months.

Management has since closed one factory, claiming the strike had cost it more than $6 million.

The blacklisted workers reacted angrily to the ruling yesterday.

“It is very unfair for us, because we are not wrong,” workers’ representative Pho Han said, adding that strikers had obeyed the court order, but had been locked out. Cambodian  Confederation of Unions president Rong Chhun, who was questioned in court over allegations that he incited workers to strike, said the company should still pay up.

Dave Welsh, country manager for the American Center for International Labor Solidarity, hoped compensation could come from elsewhere.

“That’s in the hands of the brands now . . . but [the dispute] is still an ongoing problem,” Welsh said, adding that the ruling did not vindicate the company.

“Any private agreement that goes above the minimum conditions should be welcomed, but you can’t go below – you can’t deliberately misuse legal terminology to get [bonuses] off the books,” he said.

Wu Minghuor, the manager of Tai Yang, said the decision was just.

“We gave workers many chances, but they refused to come back,” he said.

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