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Unions petition Labour Ministry

Representatives of two labour unions have written to the Ministry of Labour to request intervention on behalf of more than 300 garment workers who they claim were suspended or fired from 18 factories following large-scale strikes in September.

Ath Thorn, president of the Coalition of Cambodian Apparel Workers Democratic Union, said the letter, sent on Friday, requests that officials “urge the owners of 18 garment factories to drop complaints against 379 workers” and allow them to return to work.

The letter, which was also signed by Morm Nhim, president of the Cambodian National Labour Confederation, stated that more than 800 workers were suspended or fired from 20 factories following the strikes, hundreds of whom have since been reinstated.

Ath Thorn said many of the 379 workers who remained unemployed had no savings and were struggling to support themselves.

“I think it is time for officials to help them because their living standards have become worse and worse since they haven’t had work,” he said.

Ath Thorn said that on Friday, 184 of the 379 unemployed workers were given US$30 each from a pot of over $12,000 collected from CCAWDU members and other donors. It was the second such payment made to the workers, and Ath Thorn said similar payments would be made in the coming weeks.

Industry insiders have contested unionists’ claims of the number of people suspended and fired from the factories.

Ken Loo, secretary general of the Garment Manufacturers’ Association in Cambodia, said last month that 38 workers were dismissed and 358 suspended following the strikes, most of whom had since been allowed to return to work.

Officials at the Labour Ministry could not be reached for comment yesterday.

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