Factory Workers Hope to Raise Dispute to International Buyers

2 min read
Hul Sokhim, center, speaking to colleagues from the SYHJ Garment factory in Kandal’s Ang Snoul district in April, 2022. (Photo supplied)
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A Kandal factory is continuing to refuse to reinstate workers whom it fired as they were trying to start a union despite instructions from the Labor Ministry, as workers said they now want to take up the issue with the factory’s international clients.

In two separate orders issued May 4 and May 17, the Labor Ministry said the SYHJ Garment factory in Ang Snuol district should take back Prak Tola, Ny Tola and Hul Sokhim, saying their dismissals were illegal under articles 43 and 67 of the Union Law.

Those articles say workers standing to lead a union are protected from dismissal unless there is authorization from a labor inspector. 

It is the same argument the NagaWorld casino union has been making to contest the layoffs of its union leaders last year.

A manager at SYHJ, Prum Kosal, said in a message that the factory could not take back the three workers as they had made serious mistakes that violated the company’s internal regulations. He also alleged they had damaged thousands of dollars of company property.

“At the moment, the company has no association with the union. Please tell them that before they complain, they should look at the law — which articles, which paragraph,” Kosal said. “Ask if they know the law. … If the union wants to sue, it’s their right.”

Sokhim, one of the fired workers, said she was head of the packaging department and was due to become the new union’s head.

“They said to sue them,” she said. “They said they don’t care where we complain.”

Independent Trade Union Confederation president Ry Sethynet said he would help the SYHJ workers find the factory’s international buyers and file a complaint to them for intervention to get the three prospective union leaders back to work.

The Labor Ministry orders, issued by the labor disputes department, said factory owners must reaccept the workers who had been laid off and pay them wages from the day they were fired. A department official, when asked about enforcement, previously told VOD that both sides had two months to appeal the decision.

Ministry spokeperson Heng Sour did not respond to a request for comment on Tuesday.

The Coalition of Cambodian Apparel Workers Democratic Union has estimated that roughly 350 union leaders and active members were dismissed under the guise of Covid-19 — around a quarter of about 1,400 cases of alleged union-busting since 2015.

According to maps, the factory is next-door to similarly named SYSG Garment, a Chinese-owned T-shirt producer registered with the Garment Manufacturers Association in Cambodia.

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