The Garment Manufacturers Association in Cambodia on Saturday issued a statement saying W&D Cambodia Co Ltd’s termination of striking workers was done in accordance with the law.
In a press release, GMAC said the company complied with the Labour Ministry’s Directive 443 when terminating them because the workers did not protest to demand better working conditions, but for the indemnity payments to be paid all at once instead of twice yearly as allowed by the law.
From December 24 until recently, 1,729 workers protested to demand seniority indemnity owed last year in a lump sum and that the amount should be the same as payments due to them for this year.
“Their action is not in compliance with Directive 443 dated 21 September, 2018 issued by the Ministry of Labour,” the GMAC statement said. “Therefore, the workers had made an illegal demand because Directive 443 requires employers to pay seniority indemnity prior to 2019 twice a year instead of in a lump sum.”
It said that the government’s requirement for employers to pay seniority indemnity twice a year was meant to ease the burden and cash flow of factories.
“Thus, the factory does not have any obligation to pay seniority indemnity prior to 2019 as a lump sum payment,” it added.
The statement noted that the Arbitration Council had ordered the W&D workers to go back to work, but they continued striking.
GMAC said that the workers’ action could be considered as serious misconduct.
It noted that despite this, the company has welcomed back all the workers, except a handful who blocked roads to prevent others from going to work.
The statement said that 760 workers have returned to work and the company will maintain their seniority and attendance bonus in proportion to the number of days they have worked.
“GMAC would like to point out to the public that the factory’s refusal to pay seniority indemnity as a lump sum payment for workers of W&D is in compliance with Directive 443 dated 21 September, 2018 while the job termination for workers continuing to strike is the employer’s right,” it said.
So Vanna, a worker, said up until now, some workers have returned to work while others have not.
She said most of the workers who were fired are now urging the company to accept them back.
“The workers who were fired have agreed to stop demanding the seniority indemnity in line with a recent statement by Prime Minister Hun Sen on worker protests,” Ms Vanna said. “They asked the company to accept them back, but the company did not accept some of them.”
Recently, Mr Hun Sen ordered workers and some unions to stop striking to demand seniority indemnity because it could cause more than 800 factories to become bankrupt.
Labour Ministry spokesman Heng Sour said earlier this month that 90 percent of W&D workers returned to work and the demand by the protesting workers was illegal.
He added that the ministry is looking for those who instigated the workers to protest.