Arbitration Body Orders Capitol Tours Bus Drivers Back to Work

The Arbitration Council on Wednesday ordered 40 Capitol Tours bus drivers to end a strike that began on July 22 over claims that five other drivers were fired for attempting to organize a union at the company.

Men Nimmith, acting director of the council, said Wednesday that the drivers, who want their former colleagues reinstated, must return to work Thursday while the council investigates their claims.

“The workers have to go back to work as usual. After this, then we can solve the conflict for them,” he said, adding that a hearing would be held soon with representatives of the company and drivers.

Mr. Nimmith said that, as far as the Arbitration Council was concerned, the five drivers sacked earlier this month could also return to their jobs.

“Anyone can go back to work if they still think the dismissal was illegal,” he said.

Pan Sopheap, the owner of Capitol Tours, said he expects the drivers to return to work Thursday per the council’s order, but would not allow those fired to come back.

“I will allow them all [to return] except the seven,” he said, explaining that two additional drivers had been fired because they abandoned buses in Siem Reap province in order to join drivers protesting in Phnom Penh over the past week.

Capitol’s lawyer, Khieu Van, has offered various reasons for the dismissal of the initial five drivers including poor performance and a need to trim staff.

“We did not fire them because they are unionists,” he said on Tuesday. “They were fired because they drove too fast, didn’t work as they are supposed to, and got more passengers along the way.”

But Kong Athit, secretary-general of the Cambodian Labor Confederation, which has been working with the drivers to form a union, said that the company’s claims are meant to hide union busting.

Mr. Athit said Capitol Tours drivers voted to elect the five ousted associates as their union representatives on July 8 and gave notice to the ministry and the company on July 9. The drivers were informed of their dismissal the following day, he said.

“When we created the union, they fired [them].”

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