In a rare win for garment workers whose bosses have skipped town, a court on Wednesday ruled in favor of 196 workers demanding compensation for unpaid wages from a foreign-owned factory more than six months after it abruptly closed down.
GHI Garments Cambodia had put down a $169,067 deposit earlier this month for the release of its assets, which were seized after a non-binding Arbitration Council ruling in August. The Kandal Provincial Court on Wednesday ordered the money be paid to the company’s former employees.
Speaking outside the courtroom on Wednesday, Heng Bon, the workers’ lawyer, said the group could receive the money in the next two weeks.
Dy Na, a representative for the workers and a former GHI employee, said she was satisfied with the result, despite the long waiting period potentially entitling them to further compensation.
“I am happy with the verdict. We have tried hard and have been waiting for a long time,” she said. “If we continue further, it would be difficult.”
Ms. Na said that for 14 months of employment she is entitled to $211, while others who reached the two-year mark—assuring them an undetermined duration contract—could receive up to $700.
Kandal court spokesman So Sarin said he did not know yet how much the workers would receive or when they would receive it. He said a case of garment workers successfully taking a foreign-owned company to court was uncommon.
“I rarely receive such a case,” he said. “There is [another] one, but I can’t remember.”
William Conklin, country director for U.S.-based labor rights group Solidarity Center, said the case’s development and outcome greatly contrasted to other cases with similar circumstances.
“I think you can say this is a rare victory, in that it was finished in about six to seven months. The brand…pressured/worked with the factory, the factory owner also cooperated, and then court decision itself,” he said in an email.
“Ideally, other cases would have the same result, but it can be that circumstances are different…or that the owner has no more presence in the country (or no more assets to lien), which makes getting workers their payments due much more difficult.”
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