A nearly four-month strike, punctuated by a violent clash between unionists and police that left one bystander dead, could come to an end this afternoon.
Officials from SL Garment Processing (Cambodia) Ltd and the Coalition of Cambodian Apparel Workers’ Democratic Union (C.CAWDU) – which represents a large majority of factory employees – are scheduled to meet at the Ministry of Labour at 2:30pm, where they are expected to sign a strike-ending agreement.
“We organised the meeting, where we will witness SL and C.CAWDU sign the agreement, as long as nothing changes,” Labour Ministry secretary of state Sat Sakmoth said yesterday.
If each side signs the five-point agreement, SL would reinstate 19 fired union leaders and activists, pay strikers half their salary for the time they were on strike, reinstate employees’ previous shift schedule and limit the role of shareholder Meas Sotha, in the factory’s day-to-day operations.
SL chief executive Wong Hon Ming yesterday said he would have to see the final language in the agreement, which was drafted by the Labour Ministry, before signing it.
C.CAWDU will sign the agreement if SL does, said Ouch Noeun, C.CAWDU secretary- general at SL.
“If [SL] agrees to all five points, we will sign,” Noeun said yesterday. “But if they refuse to any point, we would not sign.”
The meeting comes three weeks after a demonstration in Meanchey district, during which police opened fire on hundreds of demonstrators. Bullets fired during the clash injured at least nine and killed 49-year-old street food vendor Eng Sokhom.
If both sides sign, workers will return to work on Wednesday, said C.CAWDU vice-president Kong Athit.
Dave Welsh, country director for labour rights group Solidarity Center, hopes the strike serves as an example of what can happen when they refuse to negotiate on issues such as subsidised lunches and pay raises, which SL employees initially demanded.
“Stakeholders would be wise to recognise these as legitimate demands,” he said.