Global union IndustriAll explained the decision to reinstate the garment workers who are union leaders of the Collective Union Movement of Workers (CUMV) in Cambodia came after a year of engagement with VF Corporation (VFC).

The global union added that Pontus’ management and CUMW signed an agreement on 28 January this year, where company agreed to reinstate three of the allegedly terminated workers in the first week of February with back pay.

IndustriAll also noted that both parties agreed to build “harmonious relations” and avoid retaliatory actions.

A VFC spokesperson told Just Style exclusively it appreciates the constructive engagement by the local union (CUMW) and its supplier partner.

The spokesperson said: “VFC is pleased to see the great efforts of social dialogue being strengthened at Pontus Footwear and can confirm that together, the local union and supplier have successfully settled a dispute case in the best interest of the workers involved.”

CUMW president Pav Sina added: “We would like to profoundly thank IndustriAll for engaging with VFC brand to set up a mediation meeting with the company management of Pontus Footwear, until the case’s closure on 28 January by reaching a joint agreement with their mutual signatures as well.”

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IndustriAll’s director of textile and garment industries, Christina Hajagos-Clausen claimed this struggle shows the importance of engaging brands and suppliers in resolving labour-management conflicts.

She continued: “I congratulate CUMW on the union win. IndustriAll will continue to support our affiliates to protect human and workers’ rights in the global supply chain.”

What led to the alleged termination of union leaders?

IndustriAll explained that in October 2022 workers at Pontus established a CUMW branch and officially registered with the Ministry of Labour and Vocational Training.

In response, Pontus Footwear’s management allegedly threatened four workers to resign from the union which led to their termination in January 2023.

A month later, IndustriAll said it issued a letter urging Pontus Footwear to reinstate the workers without any delay and respect workers’ right to organise.

IndustriAll pointed out that despite the absence of a definitive response from the company, CUMW with the help of IndustriAll, engaged with VFC representatives in Cambodia to set up a mediation meeting with Pontus Footwear.

Industriall added that a year after the initial termination and after what it describes as “several meetings” with Pontus management and CUMW, the agreement was officially signed.

Earlier this month a Cambodian supplier for German sportswear brand Adidas reinstated and paid back workers after their alleged “unlawful” dismissal in 2020, however the workers are said to be concerned about the legitimacy of a newly formed factory-level labour rights committee.

This news was first published by IndustriAll.