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Strikes face legal hurdle

Strikes face legal hurdle

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Garment worker, Chan Pheakdey, nurses her foot after it was run over by a company van at a strike outside Pine Great garment factory in Stung Meanchey district on Wedmesday.

LEGAL action by garment industry representatives may curtail the weeklong strike that continued for a third day yesterday.

Ken Loo, secretary general of the Garment Manufacturers Association in Cambodia, said “more than 10” factories had sought injunctions yesterday that would require workers to return to their jobs within 48 hours if the strikes were deemed illegal.

He said “23 or 24” GMAC factories had been affected by the strike.

“We sought some intervention, and we trust that the authorities will step in to ensure public order, and also to ensure the rights of the workers who want to come to work,” Loo said. “The police have not stepped in so far, but we believe that all this will change significantly tomorrow.”

Kong Athit, secretary general of the Cambodian Labour Confederation, said yesterday that 201,770 workers had taken part in the third day of the strike.

The CLC said roughly 144,500 workers had joined the strike on Tuesday and 68,000 on Monday.
“The number of workers joining the strike keeps increasing each day,” Kong Athit said.

But Loo said just over 30,000 workers had failed to show up to work yesterday; of this number, he guessed that fewer than 10,000 were actively participating in the strike.

“The workers want to come to work, but [protesters] stopped the workers from coming to work,” Loo said. “It’s ridiculous.”
Six workers were injured yesterday as they attempted to block cars from exiting their factories, Kong Athit said.

Growing hoarse as he addressed workers outside Phnom Penh’s Pine Great factory, CLC president Ath Thun vowed to file a complaint on behalf of the two women who were hurt at that site.

“I think the drivers got orders from their bosses, so these people must get punishment by the law,” he said.
Loo said GMAC, too, was considering filing complaints related to the work stoppage.

“We, as an industry representative of employers, are considering suing the unions or the leaders of the unions for possible disruption and causing harm to the industry,” Loo said.

The strikes have been organised to protest against a July decision by the government and industry representatives setting the minimum wage for garment workers at US$61 per month. Protest leaders are demanding an increase to $93 per month.

Also yesterday, Ath Thun said he and two other unionists would meet next Wednesday with officials at the Ministry of Interior to discuss a series of threatening phone calls he and his colleagues had received.

“The Interior Ministry officials need to meet with us to know more information about the threats to us and to the workers in order to do an investigation,” Ath Thun said.

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