Capitol Bus Drivers Reject Employment Letters

More than 40 Capitol Tours bus drivers who were ordered by the Phnom Penh Municipal Court on Friday to end a nearly two-weeklong strike are refusing to sign a company letter agreeing to new employment conditions.

The drivers went on strike on July 22, claiming that five of their colleagues were fired for trying to organize a union at the company. The municipal court ordered them back to work within 48 hours of giving them notice on Friday.

But according to Nou Pov, one of the protesting drivers, when they arrived at work on Saturday they were told to go to Prampi Makara district police station, where they were presented with the documents outlining changes to their employment.

“They required us to put our thumbprints on a letter titled ‘Request to Return to Work,’” said Mr. Pov, who added that the new agreement would restrict their freedom to protest and threaten their seniority.

“Why do we have to thumbprint for the conditions if we have already worked there for more than 10 years?”

Heng Kesaro, the Phnom Penh Municipal Court judge who issued the court order, said the injunction did not include any stipulations about new employment conditions.

Capitol Tours’ lawyer, Khieu Van, said the letters were necessary because drivers had effectively asked to suspend their contracts when they informed the company of their plans to strike.

“We’ll let them go back to work but they have to do it because when they went on strike they also wrote [letters] to suspend [their employment],” he said.

Mr. Van denied that the contract would negatively impact the drivers.

“They are afraid of losing seniority but I told them they won’t lose it,” Mr. Van said.

“They think that the new rules of the company will pressure them, but the rules are sealed by the Ministry of Labor. If they want to ask, go to ask the ministry. Do they want anarchy or what?”

The five drivers were dismissed on July 10, the day after informing the company that they were forming a union with the assistance of the Cambodian Labor Confederation.

The Arbitration Council, an independent labor dispute resolution body, has also taken on the case and plans to hold a pre-hearing meeting this afternoon about the 40 drivers, said Men Nimmith, acting executive director of the Arbitration Council Foundation.

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