The Ocean Garment manager facing a slew of sexual harassment charges has lashed out at the union representing the 2,500 workers on strike over the past two weeks, claiming its delegates provoked the strike after management cracked down on absent workers and overtime requests.
In a letter to the Post, Bangladeshi national Faruk Ahamed claimed sexual abuse and intimidation allegations made by six female Ocean employees had tarnished his “fame and reputation”.
The women’s claims prompted more than half of Ocean’s work force to rally behind them in an August 11 protest.
The six filed formal criminal complaints to the police and Phnom Penh Municipal Court last week.
The group was ordered back to work by authorities last Thursday but have remained on strike, protesting inside the factory in support of five union representatives who now face prosecution and have been suspended for spurring on the strike.
But Ahamed said the allegations were part of a union “conspiracy” and had been pre-planned by the Collective Union of Movement of Workers (CUMW).
“The union is angry because about 30 workers were caught out not actually working … They would come to work and leave for the day … Management saw this,” he said.
“The women have no evidence, we have asked for it and they could not show it,” Ebadul Islam, deputy general manager at Ocean, said.
The pair visited the Post’s offices yesterday to hit back at the accusations.
Ahamed said he did not work directly with the women on the factory floor; however, he conceded he did often physically inspect the production site.
He said he had not been on site at the factory since August 11 – a fact contested by several workers – and had left the adjacent living quarters on August 15, under suspension until criminal investigations have concluded.
“They have no evidence … if finally convicted by the court, I shall take all responsibility,” he said.
But CUMW officer Chheng Chhorn insisted the workers had witnesses and evidence.
“If they did not have, they would not have pressed charges,” he said.
Heng Samphors, a worker who claimed the sexual harassment by Ahamed, said she had not been pressured by the union to make the allegations.
“I am not an animal. I am a human being, so I would not destroy my honour,” she said.
Ahamed admitted that about 20 short-term contract employees had been terminated for taking part in the strike, but said their contracts had been paid out in full.
Based in Phnom Penh’s Dangkor district, Ocean supplies retail chain Gap, which has not responded to requests for comment.
To contact the reporters on this story: Claire Knox and Mom Kunthear at [email protected]