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Some Workers Continue Strike Over Fired Unionists

An estimated 30,000 workers went on strike last week, demanding more negotiations over salaries they say are too high for the increased cost of living.

Workers from at least three factories continued to demonstrate on Monday, demanding that union representatives be allowed back to work following last week's general strike.

The workers demonstrated against an order from Kandal provincial court that barred 54 representatives from returning to work at the River Rich, Goldfame Enterprise and Winner garment factories, following a general strike last week that ended Thursday.

The labor leaders are barred from working while the court considers a suit against them by the three factories claiming last week's strikes were illegal.

“I'm striking for 19 labor representatives whom the owner did not allow back to work,” said Uch Sam Ath, a demonstrator, in front of his Goldfame factory in Sa'an district. He estimated some 5,000 of 8,000 workers were on strike, but that number was impossible to verify Monday.

An estimated 30,000 workers went on strike last week, demanding more negotiations over salaries they say are too low for the increased cost of living. The strike cost factories millions of dollars in revenues and led to lawsuits filed alleging the strikes were illegal.

The strikes ended after a brokered agreement for more negotiations later this month.

“We want our labor representatives to return to work, because they are good representatives in defending our labor rights,” said striking worker Sok Rath, outside the Winner factory.

“We're not going to work, because we haven't seen our labor representatives at work,” said Phan Sopha, at River Rich Textile.

Court officials said the leaders were barred from work under court procedures.

Chea Chi Chay, administrative chief for Winner, said the company wanted the representatives to have their day in court, but was requesting “others to go to work as normal and not affect the interests of the workers and the company.”

Ath Thun, president of the Cambodian Labor Confederation, said the court was increasing pressure and threats ahead of the upcoming talks.

“The court order seems to have stirred up more disputes again,” he said.