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Thousands told not to come back to work

Representatives of two factories in Kandal province have said they will not comply with a government request to reinstate thousands of workers suspended for participating in illegal strikes.

The announcements came a day after Social Affairs Minister Ith Sam Heng called for factories to reinstate suspended workers, and urged unions to refrain from any further strike action pending negotiations to be conducted by a new bipartite committee.

Lim Phengsam, a representative of the Winner Garment Factory, said his plant had no immediate plans to reinstate or replace more than 200 workers who were suspended on Saturday.

“The Minister of Social Affairs suggested that the factories allow those workers to return to work if we can, but to allow this or not is dependent on each factory’s decision,” he said. “We don’t have jobs for them.”

The workers were suspended after participating in strikes seeking the reinstatement of union representatives who had been suspended following a large-scale strike that began on September 13. Thousands of workers continued striking for about a week after they were notified of a court injunction ordering them to return to work.
A representative of the Goldfame Enterprise factory, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said that some 3,000 workers who had been told on Friday that they had been suspended had since been informed that they were free to turn up for their shifts, but were not guaranteed work.
“We don’t have work for them,” he said, but declined to comment further.
Union representatives said last week that they would protest if workers were not reinstated following a meeting at the Ministry of Social Affairs on Monday. Yesterday, however, union leaders at both factories called for calm.
Un Sokrith, a union representative at the Winner Garment Factory in Kandal province, said around 200 suspended workers had rallied outside the factory gates yesterday morning to agitate for their jobs.
He said the bid had been unsuccessful, but that the group had disbursed at the request of union leaders after about an hour.
“They want to strike again, but we asked them to wait and see the solution from the ... negotiations,” he said.
Chea Thida, a union representative at the Goldfame Enterprise factory, said yesterday that about 2,000 workers were sitting idle.
“They just sit in the factory without any work to do,” she said. She said, however, that she urged the workers to “calm down” and refrain from protesting the lack of work pending the negotiation process.
The new committee, announced on Monday, will be formed of five union representatives, five from industry and two government officials.
Vong Sovann, president of Cambodian Confederation of Trade Unions, said prominent union leaders, including Cambodia Labour Confederation president Ath Thun, had been nominated to sit on the committee.
Ken Loo, secretary general of the Garment Manufacturers Association in Cambodia, said industry representatives had not yet submitted their nominations for the committee but noted that they would “all be members of GMAC”.

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