More than 200 employees of Cambodia’s largest brewer, Cambrew Ltd., held a protest outside the brewery in Sihanoukville on Thursday to demand a $30 dollar salary increase to $120 monthly salaries, worker representatives said.
The company, which produces Angkor beer and Black Panther stout, employs more than 1,000 people, but the protest Thursday was mostly made up of skilled laborers who said their $90 monthly salaries do not reflect their qualifications and the hazardous conditions they work under.
“We don’t want to protest or strike against the company but we have tried to coordinate our concerns with the administration office many times, but they have never considered our request,” said Kim Sitha, a 41-year-old welder who has worked at the brewery for more than four years.
Engineering supervisor Chea Sivath, 35, said this was the first time workers had gone on strike at the factory, as they had previously remained patient, hoping the company would raise their salaries to help them cope with inflation.
“Nowadays, the price of goods in the market is increasing every day so the company ought to increase the salary of its workers to follow the price of goods,” Mr. Sivath said.
Another welder, 28-year-old Chorn Chivoan, said he joined the protest because the job—working in machine-filled rooms—had a detrimental effect on workers’ health that was not being properly compensated. “[T]he salary is not suitable for the work we do and the health problems it causes,” he said, adding that workers would continue to strike until the company meets their demands.
Sar Mora, president of the Cambodian Food and Service Worker’s Federation, said that his union had not encouraged its members to strike, but added that it had pushed the company to raise workers’ wages to no avail.
Ten workers’ representatives met with management of the brewery Thursday afternoon, but administration manager Chheng Sopheak said no solution was reached.
“We will have another meeting tomorrow at 9 a.m. with workers, union representatives and the provincial department of labor and vocational training to find a solution and discuss how much it is possible to pay them,” he said.
© 2014, Ben Sokhean. All rights reserved.