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Arbitration group weighs in

Ocean Garment factory workers hold placards during a protest on Tuesday near Phnom Penh international Airport
Ocean Garment factory workers hold placards during a protest on Tuesday near Phnom Penh international Airport, demanding the company pay wages for the month the factory was closed. Pha Lina

Arbitration group weighs in

Cambodia's Arbitration Council yesterday called Ocean Garment factory’s continued refusal to abide by the body’s decision last week to pay workers their full salary during a temporary closure “discouraging”.

Ocean Garment employees blocked Russian Boulevard for the second day in a row yesterday, eventually vacating the main road at about 11am after Ministry of Labour officials pledged to mediate talks between management and employee representatives today.

“I really do not trust the company at all to resolve the issue, because they have pulled a lot of tricks,” Pav Sina, president of the Collective Union of Movement of Workers, said yesterday. “We will wait and see how they plan on solving it,” he continued.

Workers at Ocean Garment began protesting after a May 24 announcement from the company that it would close for one month ending June 26 and pay employees only $15 for that time.

Demonstrations intensified after the factory responded to an Arbitration Council decision that they must pay workers their full salary during the closure by offering them $50.

Arbitration Council decisions are nonbinding in the eyes of the law, but under a memorandum of understanding between the Garment Manufacturers Association in Cambodia (GMAC) and its members, GMAC-associated factories must obey the body’s rulings.

Neither GMAC secretary-general Ken Loo nor management at Ocean Garment could be reached yesterday.

The Arbitration Council yesterday said in an email that Ocean Garment’s refusal to make good on the agreement is disheartening.

“This is very discouraging to see the ruling being ignored at a time when the garment industry as a whole is committed to accepting final and binding arbitration,” the council’s email says. “It does set a bad example.”

In addition, deputy general manager Salayddin Ahmed’s previous claim that Gap Inc – which he said was the factory’s sole buyer – officially stopped buying from Ocean, necessitating the closure, has been contradicted.

In an email, a Gap Inc spokeswoman said “Ocean Garment remains an approved facility for Gap Inc, and has not been terminated”.

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