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11 Jan 2019

Matt Blomberg, Thomson Reuters Foundation

Cambodia: Warnings of unrest follow firing of garment workers after mass strike

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"Mass sackings send chill through Cambodian garment factories", 10 January 2019

The termination of about 1,200 staff from garment factories in Cambodia supplying brands including H&M and Marks & Spencer after a mass strike has sent a ripple of fear through the industry, experts said, warning of fresh unrest.

Thousands of workers from factories in and around Phnom Penh went on strike last week amid fears bosses were plotting to circumvent a new government edict to pay - and backpay - bonuses based on length of employment...

In a televised speech on Wednesday, Prime Minister Hun Sen warned workers across the country against striking, saying factories would shut down and leave them empty handed.

Muth Ron, a seamstress for more than ten years at a factory... said...[f]actory management... had begun trying to replace worker ID cards and have them sign new contracts - a strategy, workers believe, to wipe clear accrued benefits...

Taing Meng, a lawyer representing the factory, dismissed those claims and said all the terminated workers aside from about 50 who had incited the industrial action could return and would keep their accrued benefits.

A spokeswoman for Marks & Spencer said the brand was in communication with factory bosses and would “cancel contracts and cease trade” with suppliers that breached their global sourcing principles.

A spokeswoman for H&M, which sources from a factory that has laid off more than 200 staff, said “around 100 workers have voluntarily left” and that H&M was monitoring the situation...