The Svay Rieng provincial administration yesterday issued a statement saying that striking garment workers from the Bai Hong factory in Svay Teab district were not yet considered official employees by the factory, noting they did not have the right to form a local union.
Last week, nearly 500 garment workers occupied the factory complex and occasionally staged protests at the Provincial Hall after the company fired representatives Phong Mesa, Moung Sophy and Chub Pheaum for attempting to create a local union.
In a statement, the provincial administration said the company hired about 1,000 workers in November, noting that all of the workers are still in their probation period.
It added that the workers did not have the right to form a local union due to their employment status.
The workers were given probation status for the first three months of their employment, and would only be given a contract after they proved to the company that they are able to work.
“They are still under probation, therefore they cannot stand to be elected as union leaders,” the statement said. “They need to prove their professionalism and their skills first before being hired as full-time workers.”
Has Bunthy, director of the provincial labour department, yesterday said Mr Mesa, Mr Sophy and Mr Pheaum were fired by the company and staged protests in order to return to work.
However, they have since agreed to cease protesting in order to protect other workers.
“They decided to stop working after we spoke with them,” Mr Bunthy said. “The workers who were on strike then returned to work.”
He added that even though the strike has ceased, Bai Hong has decided to extend the probation period of the workers due to last week’s strike.
Mr Mesa, one of the representatives, yesterday said he left the company because he did not want about 1,000 workers to be out of a job.
“We are afraid that if the workers continued protesting then another thousand workers could lose their jobs,” he said, noting that the company has to respect the rights of workers.
Pav Sina, president of the Collective Union of Movement of Workers, last week said however that firing workers who wish to unionise seems to be the trend in recent times.
“Despite the right to form unions and to protect union freedoms as stipulated by the law, employers do not care about it,” Mr Sina said. “They discriminate against workers who want to be union leaders.”