Local Union Leaders Not Rehired After Ministry Order

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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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CORRECTED May 25 — A local union said two factories in Kandal province are failing to follow Labor Ministry orders to rehire unionized workers that were fired illegally. 

Ry Sethynet, president of the Independent Trade Union Confederation, told VOD that unionists had been fired at two separate Kandal factory-level unions — a prospective union in Angk Snuol district’s SYHJ Garment Factory, and an established union at Sa’ang district’s Qi Ming Xin Factory.

He said the ministry’s dispute board had ordered factory owners to rehire the fired workers, but to no avail. Workers would suffer in the future if the Labor Ministry did not force factory bosses to comply with the ministry’s orders, Sethynet said. 

“Government, especially the Labor Ministry, must take action by urging the factory to enforce the law and fine it and issue reports that the factory has violated the law and workers’ rights,” he said. “And if no action is taken, it is an opportunity for employers to take over and disobey the law and further look down on the law in Cambodia and oppress [workers’] existing rights so that they will no longer be applied.”

The ministry’s labor dispute department ordered SYHJ to rehire two workers who were fired without warning in April, Srey Prak Tola and Ny Tola, after the workers raised alarm because they were in the process of forming a union

However, the ministry did not include Hul Sokhim, a third worker who was fired and the prospective union’s head, in their order to rehire. 

Sokhim said the union had yet to rehire any of the three workers. 

“The ministry issued a letter to us to return to work, but the director of administration was not allowed to enter,” he said. “If we join [the factory again], [the director] is afraid of losing the benefits he has taken from the workers because we are an independent union [and] we will protest.”

A man named Piseth, who workers say is the administrative director, declined to comment on the case. 

In March, the Labor Ministry had also issued an order to Qi Ming Xin shoe factory in Bek Chan commune to rehire five ITUC-organized workers: union president Duong Soknang, Duong Tola, Roeun Sophea, Chheng Sith and Long Soklin. Those orders haven’t been followed either, according to the ITUC national president. 

Soknang, the local union president, couldn’t be reached for comment. 

Chea Seang Hong, a labor dispute officer for the Labor Ministry, said that if either party was not satisfied with the decision of the labor inspector, they can appeal to the ministry.

“For this decision, either the employer or the employee and the union can complain if they are not satisfied,” he added.

The Coalition of Cambodian Apparel Workers’ Democratic Union (CCAWDU) reported in April that a total of 1,408 workers from 23 factories had been laid off due to their efforts to form or participate in a union.

Correction, May 25 — The Labor Ministry ordered SYHJ Garment Factory to rehire two workers. The factory is next door to a similarly named SYSG Factory, according to maps.

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