50 at French Cultural Center Strike Over Pay

More than 50 French and Cam­bodian nationals working as teachers at the French Cultural Center in Phnom Penh went on strike on Friday to protest pay cuts they say have been proposed by the center’s new management.

At the center, where banners in French read “Teachers dissatisfied!” and “French speaking in dan­ger!” Antoine Milovanovic, a 26-year-old French teacher from Paris, said the protest indicated rising discontent over pay cuts for some staff proposed on March 22.

The strike “announce[d] loud and clear our distress, which is continuously growing,” he said, ad­ding that he was proud to be de­mon­strating with his Cambodian colleagues. “This is the re­ality. We fight for our right,” he said.

Milovanovic said the teachers met with the school’s director on Friday afternoon to negotiate, but no resolution was reached.

Strikers handed out flyers citing various other grievances, including the raising of tuition fees and the fact that the school does not give time off for 11 Cambodian na­tional holidays.

Chan Samnoble, a Cambodian teacher with a doctorate from France, said the strike had not been motivated by growing civil unrest in Paris about youth job security, though he said he had been contacted by unions in France asking for his support.

“We are separate from each oth­er,” he said. “I do not think the French in Paris would come to help us here.”

He added that he used to be paid about $10 per hour, but the center has proposed cutting this to about $9.

A man identified by the demonstrators as the center’s director Alain Troulet referred questions to the French Embassy.

An embassy official said the strike had been caused by a misunderstanding following a rearrangement of how less permanent teachers would be em­ployed.

Not all classes were disturbed, he said, adding that the management has proposed new discussions with the teachers to be held on Tuesday or Wed­nesday.

(Additional reporting by William Shaw)

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