Cambodia: Garment factories fire 1000+ workers after mass strikes over seniority payment

In December 2018, workers of factories W&D (Cambodia) and Seduno Investment Cambo Fashion began a mass strike in and around Phnom Penh citing fears that their employers were planning on circumventing a new government directive to pay - and backpay - bonuses based on length of employment. 

In early January 2019, the companies - with the backing of the Phnom Penh Municipal Court -  issued an ultimatum to the workers saying that if they did not return to work within 48 hours, they would be fired. When the workers refused to return to work, approximately 1,200 workers were fired.

In January 2019, the Business & Human Rights Resource Centre invited buyers listed on W&D’s website - including Marks & Spencer, Columbia Sportswear, Blackhawk, Aramark, Blauer, Carharrt, Cintas, Body Glove, Rocky Boots, O’Neill, Academy, Scentlok and Cabela’s - to comment on the situation.

Columbia Sportswear said it has not sourced from W&D since 2015. Carhatt said it has begun an investigation and “firmly believes in the right for workers to freedom of association and collective bargaining without fear of reprisal or termination as outlined in our Code of Conduct.”

Marks & Spencer provided a full response, including an update that following mediation over 900 workers have been reinstated. The full company response is included below.

Further comments from Marks & Spencer and also H&M - who sources from Seduno Investment Cambo Fashion - are included in the article below. 

Get RSS feed of these results

All components of this story

Article
28 March 2019

Cambodia: W&D factory reinstates sacked workers to end an ongoing labour dispute after PM's appeal

Author: Soth Koemsoeun, The Phnom Penh Post

"Dispute ends as W&D factory rehires workers", 28 March 2019

The three-month industrial dispute involving W&D Cambodia Co Ltd appeared to be over … after the company agreed to reinstate more than 1,000 sacked workers…

“The company has decided to agree to reinstate all the workers with seniority maintained. All workers must return to work as usual at 7am from Friday and Saturday without fail."

“The company will not provide wages and benefits for the period of the strike, according to Article 332 of the Labour Law."

“All workers when returning to work must respect the assignment and comply with the internal regulations of the company,” said an announcement by Hsu Shun Feng, the CEO of W&D Cambodia ...

The resolution came after Prime Minister Hun Sen … appealed to the owners of W&D to reinstate the workers, claiming they were incited by some people to demonstrate…

Workers representative Kim San said they were happy with the resolution and the intervention of Prime Minister Hun Sen.

“We don’t have any objections. The important thing is to be reinstated, and we are not disappointed that they will not pay us for the duration of the strike. Now we are announcing the news so workers who have gone to their provinces can be informed and return to work,” he said.

Ath Thon, the president of the Coalition of Cambodian Apparel Workers’ Democratic Union (C.CAWDU), applauded the outcome…

Ath Thon said that setting only two days for workers to return to work on Friday and Saturday was very short notice and that some would not be able to return on time because they had left for other jobs in other areas…

Read the full post here

Article
26 March 2019

Cambodia: PM appeals to W&D garment factory to reinstate fired workers to show mutual understanding after ongoing protests

Author: Davin Sen, Khmer Times

"PM supports fired W&D garment factory workers", 26 March 2019

Prime Minister Hun Sen ... appealed to the owners of W&D Garment Company to allow more than 1,000 garment factory workers to return to work after they were fired for holding a strike ...

Mr Hun Sen ... said that he has spoken with Labour Minister Ith Samheng to facilitate their return to the company’s factory.

“I appeal to W&D to allow the workers to return to work because they are no longer demanding for seniority indemnity, they are demanding to return to work,” he said. “All sides must understand each other. Workers must not make excessive demands and hold strikes.”...

Saing Chanry, a garment worker, ... said 1,127 garment factory workers who used to work for W&D agreed with Mr Hun Sen’s appeal.

“We hope that the Prime Minister’s appeal can help finish this labour dispute soon,” Ms Chanry said. “His speech gave us hope about returning to work.”

“We have been negotiating with the Labour Ministry and the company, but the company refuses to allow us to return,” she added. “They accused us of [failing to comply] with a court order.”...

Read the full post here

Article
20 March 2019

Cambodia: The meeting between W&D factory's representatives and workers ends with failures to reach a solution to an ongoing labour dispute

Author: Chakrya Sophak Khouth, The Phnom Penh Post

"W&D meeting fails to resolve dispute", 20 March 2019

A meeting supervised by the Ministry of Labour and Vocational Training between representatives of the W&D Cambodia garment factory and around 1,000 sacked workers failed to find a resolution to end the three-month labour dispute …, said Hem Hoeurn, a senior ministry official.

The workers’ representatives demanded factory owners unconditionally reinstate the fired staff to their previous positions, Hoeurn told …, while the owners cited legal frameworks and accused the workers of not following the Arbitration Council’s orders and ultimately those of the Phnom Penh Municipal Court…

Saing Chanry, one of six workers’ representatives permitted at the meeting, told … afterwards that agents for the factory did not regard them as true representatives of the workers.

“The factory said we [representatives] had incited [the workers] to participate in the protests, even though this is untrue. All of us were workers, there was no one then acting as a representative. At our previous demonstration, we demanded the factory give us seniority indemnity…

She said more than 100 of the 1,104 fired factory workers have continued to protest in front of the factory demanding their jobs back.

W&D Cambodia lawyer Taing Meng told … that he had tried to inform workers not to demand anything outside the confines of the law…

Read the full post here

Article
19 March 2019

Cambodia: PM calls on a union leader to stop urging workers to demand indemnity payments; but unions and workers say they demand reinstatement

Author: Davin Sen, Khmer Times

"Hun Sen raps CLC president over misguided protests", 19 March 2019

Prime Minister Hun Sen ... called on Cambodian Labour Confederation president Ath Thorn to stop encouraging garment workers to protest and demand unreasonable seniority indemnity payments.

..., Mr Hun Sen appealed to Mr Thorn to have workers stop demanding seniority payments be paid in a lump sum rather than in two instalments as provided for by the labour law...

Mr Hun Sen said under the labour law, factories only need to pay workers indemnity payments twice per year...

..., more than 300 W&D Garment Factory workers protested near Mr Hun Sen’s home to demand that the factory reinstate all workers who were sacked after previous protests to demand lump-sum indemnity payments...

Saing Chanry, a workers’ representative who joined the protest, ... appealed to Mr Hun Sen to intervene in the matter.

“We have stopped demanding that indemnity payment be paid in a lump sum and Samdech [Hun Sen] has received unreliable information from subordinates that we are still doing so,” she said.

Ms Chanry said that the workers only want the company to allow all of them back without discrimination.

Mr Thorn ... said more than a thousand W&D workers are still holding occasional protests for the company to take back everyone.

On Mr Hun Sen’s call for him to stop workers from demanding the indemnity payments, he said he thinks that perhaps the Minister of Labour gave a wrong report to the Prime Minister...

The company noted that since December 24, 1,729 workers staged protests, and 814 workers have since returned to work.

Read the full post here

Article
9 March 2019

Cambodia: Negotiations between a factory and workers' representatives is cancelled because a factory management team does not show up

Author: Davin Sen, Khmer Times

"No show by W&D management at meeting with workers", 8 March 2019

Planned negotiations between W&D Cambodia Co Ltd and its workers’ representatives ... over a labour dispute were scuttled because the management’s team did not show up.

Chea Sokpha, a representative of the workers, said that the meeting at Meanchey District Hall did not yield any results because the company did not send any representatives...

“We have stopped believing that any solution can be found because they [the management] keeps delaying meeting us,” Ms Sokpha said. “Both the authorities and company keep blaming the workers for the dispute.”

... A worker, who declined to be named, ... said that management did not appear to want to negotiate with them.

“They keep delaying and want to reschedule the meeting to Monday,” he said. “We cannot keep waiting for a meeting because some of the sacked workers have been evicted by their landlords because they could not afford to pay rent.”...

Read the full post here

Article
3 March 2019

Cambodia: More than 100 workers protest to show their support to dismissed representatives

Author: Savi Khorn, The Phnom Penh Post

"W&D workers protest sackings", 26 February 2019

More than 100 workers from the W&D factory gathered in front of Phnom Penh Municipal Court … in a show of support for six representatives who are appealing the ruling over their dismissal.

The owner of the W&D factory fired some 1,200 employees … after protests demanding improved conditions.

The factory issued an ultimatum – supported by the Phnom Penh Municipal Court – that the striking workers return to their jobs within 48 hours or be dismissed.

The workers responded to the ultimatum by occupying the factory, with their representatives saying they would not give in until the factory owners met their demands…

“On December 31 last year, the Arbitration Council ordered striking workers to return to work."…

Lim Borei, another of the six, said the workers had less work to do after the factory had taken away some of its equipment during the strike. That, he said, prompted the factory owners to complain to the court and Ministry of Labour and Vocational Training before dismissing the workers…

Factory representative and defence lawyer, Taing Meng, told … that factory owners had merely followed legal procedure.

“The workers appealed the ultimatum because they want to go back on strike,” he said.

Seang Yuth, an official at the Coalition of Cambodian Apparel Workers’ Democratic Union (C.CAWDU), disagreed, saying the workers had asked the court to reverse its decision because the ultimatum violated their rights.

Read the full post here

Company response
27 February 2019

Carhartt's response

Author: Carhartt

Thank you for your follow up on this matter.

In response to the notification about the strike, we hired an independent 3rd party, including former ILO arbitrators, to go into the region to conduct an in-depth investigation. The 3rd party returned with statements taken from all parties involved and based on all the facts discovered during the investigation, it concluded the factory acted legally, fairly and within ILO principles. At this point we are continuing to monitor the situation and are encouraging all parties to find a mutually agreeable resolution.

Company response
22 February 2019

Marks & Spencer's response

Author: Marks & Spencer

22/2/19

Following our requests to the factory to communicate with the dismissed workers about their legally compliant back payments and offer them a return to work within a certain period, we have kept this matter under close review. We understand the factory gave a further extension to workers and that this is now a legal matter with the Ministry of Labour. Due to changes in their customer base W&D have decided not to take any further M&S orders.

Article
21 February 2019

Cambodia: PM calls on factories to stop firing workers as a way to end disputes

Author: Kimmarita Long, The Phnom Penh Post

"PM: Stop firing workers as way to end disputes", 21 February 2019

Prime Minister Hun Sen has called on factory owners to stop dismissing workers as a way to end disputes...

“I call on all factory owners to not use dismissal in disputes. Dialogue between factory owners, unions and worker representatives is really the best way,” he told ...

“Factory owners need to pay attention to the welfare of workers. Workers have good health but we must also pay attention to improving their education . . . Factory owners also need to remember that without workers they would not be factory owners, but merely the owners of warehouses...

If a worker was sacked for a criminal matter, he said, the courts should deal with it, but in labour disputes, staff should not be fired, but dialogue opened and educational measures taken...

Srey Neang, who is among the 1,000 sacked by the W&D Factory and is involved in the protest, said following the prime minister’s comments that she hoped a solution could be found and she would soon be re-employed...

Ken Loo, the secretary-general of the Garment Manufacturers Association of Cambodia (GMAC), declined to comment ...

National Union Alliance Chamber of Cambodia (NACC) president Som Aun welcomed Hun Sen’s call, saying that in the past, many workers had been dismissed for a range of reasons, including those that appeared discriminatory...

Ministry of Labour and Vocational Training spokesman Heng Sour and Kaing Monika, deputy general-secretary of GMAC, could not be reached for comment...

Read the full post here

Article
15 February 2019

Cambodia: Former garment workers protest sackings & demand reinstatement

Author: Sen David, Khmer Times

"Former garment workers protest sackings", 15 February 2019

More than 100 former workers from the W&D factory... held a protest to demand their reinstatement after they were sacked for inciting a strike.

.. a Coalition of Cambodian Apparel Workers Democratic Union legal officer... said the company fired 1,200 workers last month after they went on strike to demand seniority indemnity. The factory then accepted most workers back, except for 127, after negotiations with Labour Ministry officials.

He said that in a letter... W&D announced that it would take back 1,173 workers and gave them three days to report for work. The company said it would not take back the 127 workers because they incited the others to go on strike, Mr Yaut said.

“The company released the names of the 127 workers and said it would not reinstate them because it found that they persuaded the workers to strike which affected the company’s revenue,” he said...

Read the full post here