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15 Jun 2020

Annie Kelly & Harriet Grant, The Guardian

Superl factory drops charges against union leader, amid fears garment workers rights' at risk during COVID-19

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"Jailed for a Facebook post: garment workers' rights at risk during Covid-19", 16 June 2020

On... 31 March.... Soy Sros, a young Cambodian garment worker... posted... on Facebook... the factory’s plans to... dismiss 88 workers... Superl Holdings, which makes luxury handbags for Michael Kors, Jimmy Choo, Kate Spade, Coach and Versace... filed criminal charges, claiming that she had incited social unrest, defamed the factory and spread “fake news”. The Cambodian courts charged her with an additional two criminal charges for provocation... that carry prison terms of up to three years...The treatment of Sros... [and] silence of the brands... is striking terror into the Cambodian garment worker community. It is also adding to fears among labour rights campaigners that Covid-19 is providing cover for an industry-wide suppression of workers’ voices across the apparels industry. Sros, who is also a union representative... spent 55 days in pre-trial detention... 

At the Huabo Times factory in [Myanmar]... unions say that 107 workers were dismissed under the guise of Covid-19 and 26 were members of a union only started a few days earlier. Of the other 81 workers, the majority were openly supportive of the union... a worker [said]...“Three days after we registered a new union they dismissed the staff. They used the excuse of the impact of Covid-19 and said they had to reduce the workforce but a few weeks later they transferred the workers from another factory into Huabo Times.” Primark, Zara and Mango say they are committed to ensuring workers can unionise, and are launching investigations and working with their suppliers to resolve any issues. The factory management at Huabo Times could not be reached for comment.

In Cambodia, media coverage and campaigning by Sros’ union... has seen Superl Holdings agree to drop the charges. Sros is now back at work but the criminal charges filed by the government currently still stand...

Part of the following timelines

Myanmar: Garment workers allege factories are using COVID-19 to dismiss union members; Incl. company responses

Cambodia: Unions urge factory producing for intl. apparel brands to withdraw charges against jailed union leader released on bail; Incl. company responses

Lawsuit against labour union president (re inciting social unrest, Cambodia)