Small Factory Protests After Firings, Alleged Union-Busting

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Jing Sheng factory workers protest in Phnom Penh’s Dangkao district on August 4, 2022. (Hean Rangsey/VOD)

Workers gathered outside Phnom Penh’s Jing Sheng Factory on Thursday demanding compensation for workers who were allegedly fired after they tried to form a union.

About 40 workers assembled at the small dyeing and laundry factory in Dangkao district’s Prek Kampoes commune calling for intervention from authorities.

Nuth Phally, who worked at Jing Sheng for three years, said the factory’s staff of around 50 had recently made a request to management to form a union, but the boss refused and began firing workers without giving reasons. About 40 workers remained, and no one had yet been paid for July, Phally said.

“I want them to solve this in accordance with the Labor Law. If the factory wants to hire us again, we will work. If not, they can fire us, [but] it must be in line with the Labor Law [for] how many years we worked. Just give us only that amount [in benefits],” Phally said.

Pheng Pov, another worker, said the factory management had begun recruiting new workers after firing the old.

“Once we gathered to form a union in the factory, they fired us four or five people at a time, and when the union handed over the documents to form a union, they didn’t accept it,” Pov said, adding that the workers had moved to unionize because a new manager was abusive and shouted at them.

Jing Sheng factory administrator Sok Pisey said the workers had only been suspended, not fired. It was because the factory ran out of orders, and management informed the Labor Ministry about the suspensions, Pisey said.

“We do not have the work for the workers to do, so we suspended them,” he said. “So I do not know what the workers are protesting about.”

Labor Ministry strikes and demonstrations committee deputy Vong Sovann said he was unaware of the case, and spokesman Heng Sour could not be reached. The workers said a ministry representative had come to meet with them around 2 p.m. Thursday.

Independent Trade Union Confederation president Ry Sethynet said union-busting was a repeated problem, and legal action needed to be taken against employers firing unionizing workers.

“Employers don’t want to have a union in the factory, because when there is a union the union will train [the workers] to know the Labor Law, Union Law and international conventions. Once they know the Union Law or Labor Law, it means employers can no longer exploit, oppress and violate their rights,” Sethynet said.

The Coalition of Cambodian Apparel Workers Democratic Union has estimated that there have been about 1,400 cases of alleged union-busting since 2015, including roughly 350 union leaders and active members dismissed under the guise of Covid-19.

The longstanding NagaWorld dispute was also sparked by the termination of all top unionists at the Phnom Penh casino.

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