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Workers strike after union leaders fired

120119_06

More than 200 workers protested outside a garment factory in Kandal province’s Ang Snuol district yesterday, demanding the factory’s recognition of a newly formed union and its  reinstatement of seven union leaders who workers claim were unfairly terminated last week.

Pha Lina/Phnom Penh Post
Garment workers protest outside the Kwei Yang factory in Kandal province yesterday. The protestersdemanded the reinstatement of seven union leaders who were dismissed earlier this month.

Seang Sambath, president of the Federation of Friendship Unions, said that 200 of the 500 workers at Kwei Yang garment factory burned tyres in front of the factory after the company refused to meet a list of 12 demands that the workers filed with the Labour Department on January 10.

The demands include a less stringent procedure for requesting leave time, a US$10 monthly reimbursement for transportation expenses in getting to and from work, the reinstatement of the terminated workers and, most importantly, recognition of the nascent union.

The union president claimed that, in direct violation of labour laws, the union representatives were dismissed on January 9 because, three days before, they had filed paperwork to create a union.

However, Kwei Yang factory administrative director Tok Kimsan said the workers’ dismissal complied with labour regulations because their three-month contracts had ended and the company had chosen not to renew them. “When the company dismisses any workers, the unionists always accuse the company side of discriminating against the union . . . but [in this case] the contracts ended,” he said.

In response to the workers’ demands, the administrative director said that “some” were “under examination by the arbitration council, while the remaining ones were not accepted by the company”.

Sok Khem, deputy chief of the labour office at Kandal province’s department of labour, defended the company yesterday, saying that “the continuation of the contract depends on the company’s will, and there is not any discrimination”.

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