Two founding members of Cambodia’s largest independent garment worker union say they were forced out of their jobs for investigating corruption.
Members of the Coalition of Cambodian Apparel Workers’ Democratic Union (C.CAWDU), media outlets and several labour rights organisations received a letter dated March 14 and signed by Um Visal and Roeun Chanthorn, denying claims that the two refused to renew their employment contract.
“We totally reject the letter [C.CAWDU secretary general) Ek Sopheakdey sent on March 7, saying we left because we did not sign our employment contract,” the letter reads. Visal alleges the two were fired because they met with C.CAWDU members at EGarment Co and told them the union owed them more money in back-pay than they received following the resolution of a dispute.
Workers involved in the monetary dispute with C.CAWDU have filed a complaint in Phnom Penh Municipal Court against union president Ath Thorn, vice-president Kong Athit and Sopheakdey, said Doung Tola, a C.CAWDU representative at EGarment, alleging they embezzled nearly $93,000.
Athit last week denied the embezzlement allegation, and said Visal’s claims stem from internal politics.
“Everybody has their own contract … he refused to re-sign the contract,” Athit said. “It’s about [Visal] waiting for an opportunity to destroy C.CAWDU leadership; he wants to be a leader.”
But Visal’s letter denies this, saying his and Chanthorn’s contracts did not have a fixed duration, since they had worked for C.CAWDU since its founding.
Article 67 of Cambodia’s labour law says employers can only keep employees on fixed-duration contracts for up to two years.
Dave Welsh of Solidarity Center said current C.CAWDU infighting comes amid a political climate that calls for unity among garment workers.