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New hope for SL strike resolution

Workers from the SL Garment Processing factory set up a tarpaulin during a strike outside the compound’s walls in Phnom Penh’s Meanchey district yesterday.
Workers from the SL Garment Processing factory set up a tarpaulin during a strike outside the compound’s walls in Phnom Penh’s Meanchey district yesterday. Pha Lina

New hope for SL strike resolution

With union and company officials at one of Asia’s largest garment factories making no progress in resolving a strike that has lasted nearly three months, a pair of labour relations groups are working on an agreement that all sides hope will end the deadlock.

Officials from the International Labour Organization’s Better Factories Cambodia and Cambodia’s Arbitration Council Foundation yesterday confirmed that the groups have been working in conjunction.

Over the past two weeks, the council and BFC have held separate meetings with management at SL Garment Processing (Cambodia) Ltd and the Coalition of Cambodian Apparel Workers Democratic Union (C.CAWDU) – which represents the majority of SL’s employees – said Jason Judd, a BFC technical specialist.

In those meetings, BFC and the council spent hours listening to complaints and demands on both sides.

“Together with the Arbitration Council, we made an offer to both sides that we could help them to come to an agreement,” Judd said. “We’re involved because this is an extraordinary case.”

Demonstrations in front of one of SL’s Meanchey district factories continued yesterday, but took on a more peaceful tone than last week, when about 10 strikers were injured, said Kong Athit, C.CAWDU’s vice-president.

On Thursday and Friday, SL employees allegedly fired air rifles and flung marbles from slingshots into the crowd of protesters.

SL officials on Sunday asserted that demonstrators, not company officials, began throwing objects.

Employees at SL began walking off the job in August, when shareholder Meas Sotha hired armed military police to stand guard inside the factory. Seeing the move as intimidation, workers demanded Sotha’s removal.

Workers now want a pay raise – $3 per day to subsidise their lunches – among other demands. SL and C.CAWDU have engaged in several fruitless negotiation sessions facilitated by government officials.

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