Two More Unionists Terminated Despite Puma ‘Settlement’

3 min read
The front gate of Eastcrown Footwear Industries with a Puma sign above it. (Independent Trade Union Confederation)

Workers fired from a Puma supplier after trying to start a union say two more colleagues have had contracts terminated since the weekend, and don’t know about a visit or settlement as claimed by the German athletics brand.

After seven garment workers spoke of alleged union-busting at Phnom Penh’s Eastcrown Footwear Industries, Puma’s corporate communications head Robert-Jan Bartunek said on Friday that an agreement had already been reached and overtime violations were not found as alleged.

“When PUMA learned about this case, we immediately engaged with the factory management. As of today, the factory management and the concerned workers reached an agreement on a financial settlement,” Bartunek said. “We have had no indication of unvoluntary overtime work through our social audit, grievance mechanism and our factory visit last week.”

However, two of the previously terminated unionists said on Monday that they didn’t know of any Puma visit nor a financial settlement.

Duong Sokna, 20, treasurer for the newly-created union, said she knew of an upcoming meeting at the Labor Ministry on Tuesday. But she didn’t know of any visit by Puma representatives or the brand’s mediation in the dispute.

Furthermore, two more workers who had tried to help form the union, Duong Tola and Horn Srey Neang, had received termination letters: Srey Neang on Saturday and Tola on Monday. They would lose their jobs at the end of their contracts, Sokna said.

“The factory strongly discriminated against the union and they still discriminate, and, frankly, in relation to those who were involved with voting for the independent union, all will be fired.”

Another unionist, Suong Sarin, 24, said only one of the 10 founding union members still had a job. Initially, 16 had joined to form the union, but six had withdrawn in the face of threats, Sarin said.

All the unionists would go to the Labor Ministry on Tuesday — some to attend a mediated meeting, and others to file a complaint.

Sarin said he also didn’t know about any Puma visit or settlement reached.

“I will still continue to do the union work because there is a lot of pressure on the workers inside the factory,” Sarin said, including being pushed to work overtime, and meetings held before work or during breaks. “No matter what the result will be, I will try my best to help our Cambodian workers.”

Eastcrown administrative director Hy Hong said last week that the factory’s reason for laying off the workers was not because they had formed a union, but would not elaborate.

Bartunek, the Puma communications official, said on Friday that the brand had started working with Eastcrown in March this year.

Puma has “multiple channels for factory workers to raise any concern directly with our sustainability team,” he said, and the company had “zero tolerance for freedom of association breaches, and it may lead to the termination of the business relationship with the factory.”

“PUMA commits to the right to freedom of association, to organize or join unions and to collective bargaining,” Bartunek said.

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