CAMBODIAN CENTER FOR HUMAN RIGTHS
Phnom Penh, 11 November 2010
For immediate release
Garment strike mostly lawful; employers’ reaction not proportional, report finds
An independent legal analysis of September’s nationwide garment factory strikes released by the Cambodian Center for Human Rights (“CCHR”) today concludes that striking unions mostly complied with the legal requirements. The report affirms the claims of the Garment Manufacturers Association of Cambodia (“GMAC”) that employers as well as employees have rights in relation to strikes. However, ultimately it found that in this strike, many of GMAC’s claims that the strike was illegal have little foundation.
The report also concludes that while GMAC is entitled to raise questions about the unions’ compliance with the law, the reaction of its members in threatening criminal charges and launching court proceedings against individual union members was not proportionate and in most cases could not be justified even if their claims that the strike was illegal were accurate.
CCHR President Ou Virak called on both unions and employers to come together and work towards a constructive resolution of the underlying dispute, “This analysis makes it doubly clear that legal action in the courts won’t resolve anything – it will only make the situation worse. I call on employers to drop the remaining lawsuits and unions to come to the table and exhaust all alternative courses of action before threatening further strikes”
The report praises the constructive intervention by the Royal Government of Cambodia in trying to bring the parties together in fresh negotiations and developing a new bipartite committee to resolve the underlying dispute. Ou Virak commented that, “The government needs to continue playing a constructive role here – this means safeguarding the rights of both parties and encouraging substantive negotiations.”
The right of employees to strike is clearly established under international human rights law, the Cambodian Constitution and domestic Cambodian legislation. However, it is not absolute and only applies subject to trade unions following the prescribed rules and procedures for strikes. Despite allegations by GMAC that trade unions had failed to comply with these rules, the CCHR analysis finds that unions had provided the required period of notice, complied with all their obligations in respect of conciliation procedures and conducted the strike without violence.
Even if a strike does breach the legal requirements, employers are under an obligation to respond in a proportionate way. The CCHR analysis concludes that many of the reactions of employers to the September strike failed to meet this test of proportionality. “Threatening criminal sanctions and imprisonment in response to a peaceful strike cannot be justified”, commented Ou Virak, “Nor can lawsuits against union members in a personal capacity. Employers should have raised any concerns they had about compliance with the rules with the union directly.”
The legal analysis is available in both English and Khmer on the Cambodian Human Rights Portal www.sithi.org as well as on the CCHR website www.cchrcambodia.org.
For more information, please contact:
Mr. Ou Virak, CCHR President
Tel: +855 12 40 40 51
John Coughlan, Senior Legal Consultant
Tel: +855 89 58 35 90