A worker at a Kampong Cham garment factory who accused her employer of firing her after she joined a union said she may take the case to court after negotiations faltered last week.
Morn Dy, a garment worker at Sun Hsu Co Ltd, is among four workers accusing managers at the Chinese-owned factory of harassing and intimidating employees trying to form a union, including sending the commune police chief to their homes.
After negotiations at the provincial Labour Department on Thursday, Dy said a factory representative offered her a job in a different section of the company and said she would have to start anew, meaning she would lose seniority.
“They claimed the owner was upset because I gave an interview to the media and could prevent the factory from getting new orders, so they are trying to help me hide from the factory’s owner by putting me in a new section,” Dy said.
However, Jing Li, a manager at the factory, denied the workers had been fired due to their attempts to organise a union and said instead that the workers had various problems, including lateness and absence.
“There are three people right now who think they were let go because they tried to unionise,” Li said. “But it’s because once their contracts were up, we didn’t need them anymore.”
Li confirmed the factory offered Dy a new job in a different section but said it was the only area where they had an immediate job opening. She also denied management tried to strip Dy of her length of service or that they had sent any police officials to visit the fired workers’ homes, as they have previously claimed.
“We have completely no idea about this,” Li said. “How could we do such a bizarre thing?”
Kampong Cham Labour Department head Chheang Heang said Dy and the factory were unable to resolve their disagreement over when Dy would return to work. The next step, he said, would be to renegotiate in 20 days or send the complaint to court.
Asked about allegations that the factory had sent commune officials to intimidate workers, Heang said that he did not investigate.
“However, if they did this, they violated the Trade Union Law,” he said. “They have no right to prevent anyone from forming a union.”
US brands The Children’s Place and Carter’s, who source from Sun Hsu factory, did not respond to requests for comment. A spokesman for the industry trade group American Apparel & Footwear Association, which represents Carter’s, also declined to comment but pointed to a letter it penned last week to Prime Minister Hun Sen expressing growing concern about the state of workers’ rights in Cambodia.
Dy said she is considering taking the case to court, even though she was warned the process could take months.
“I said, ‘I don’t know, let’s see,’ but I can’t accept their offer,” she said.