Some 500 workers on Wednesday protested in front of their factory at the GIGA special economic zone in Svay Rieng province’s Svay Teap district to demand the reinstatement of three representatives who intended to form a trade union.
Phon Mesa, one of the workers’ representatives from the Phnom Penh-based Collective Union of Movement of Workers (CUMW), said he and the other two were dismissed after announcing their candidacy for union leadership at the Bai Hong factory, which produces lamps in Svay Teap district’s Kandieng Reay commune.
Mesa said the factory cited contract expiry as the reason behind their dismissals on Tuesday.
The planned creation of the union was intended to protect workers’ interests, he said, claiming the factory had abused labour law by forcing unpaid overtime on workers and frequently insulted them.
“The company fired me without a clear reason. It’s unfair because I’ve done nothing wrong – union formation is supported by the law. I’ll lead the protest until the company re-hires me,” he said.
CUMW president Pav Sina said the sacking was an act of discrimination with utter disregard for the law.
“The dismissal of [union] leaders or activists at local level is happening again and again although the right to create unions is guaranteed by the law – something company owners don’t seem to care about,” he said.
Svay Rieng provincial Labour and Vocational Training Department director Has Bunthy said the body is mediating between the two parties.
“We are mediating in this case, but we don’t know when a solution will be reached. We have to wait and see while the negotiations are ongoing."
“As far as I know, the sacked workers were still on probation, so the company has the right to recruit more qualified workers."
“We are mediators so we want the owner to rehire [the sacked workers] to avoid protests,” he said.
Bai Hong currently employs 1,000 workers. A company representative could not be reached for comment on Wednesday.