A group of Capitol Tours bus drivers—five of whom claim they were fired for attempting to form a union—say they were attacked Monday by a group of more than 50 tuk-tuk drivers while protesting outside the transport company’s headquarters in Phnom Penh’s Prampi Makara district.
More than 40 Capitol Tours drivers went on strike last week, demanding that the five former drivers organizing a union with the help of the Cambodian Labor Confederation (CLC) be reinstated.
A meeting at the Labor Ministry’s conflict resolution department on Thursday left the two sides deadlocked, paving the way for Monday’s protest at which tuk-tuk drivers belonging to the Cambodia of Confederation of Development Association (CCDA) clashed with the bus drivers.
“When we were protesting, holding banners, the tuk-tuk drivers got angry and said, ‘Do you want us to lose money?’” said Van Rang, one of the fired drivers. “The tuk-tuk drivers attacked us, kicked us, and pushed us from the corner and also stole an iPad.”
Mr. Rang said the bus drivers had not previously had problems with the tuk-tuk drivers, who pay to park outside the company office to ferry passengers disembarking from buses.
“I think maybe the company asked them to do it,” he said. “If the company did not ask them to push us, then why did they do it?”
Mr. Rang, who before being fired was helping to organize workers in order to secure paid holidays, annual bonuses and company registration with the National Social Security Fund, said that Monday’s protest was meant to pressure the company as the case was being sent to the Arbitration Council.
“The Arbitration Council might be slow to solve our problem, so we want to put pressure on the company,” he said.
Kok Van, assistant to the general manager of Capitol Tours, said the accusation of the company paying tuk-tuk drivers to disrupt the protest was baseless.
“We did not hire those tuk-tuk drivers; where is the evidence?” he said.
E Sophors, president of CCDA, also said his members were not hired by the bus company to intimidate the protesters, but were rather looking out for their own interests because the demonstration was affecting their opportunities to pick up passengers.
“The protest interrupted my drivers,” he said. “So we could not let them do whatever they want. If we did not stop them, how would my drivers earn money?”
Mr. Sophors added that he expects CLC to reach a compromise with his organization before any future protests to ensure his members are not adversely affected.
“If they do not come to negotiate with us, then I have 100,000 members that will make war with them,” he said.