Phnom Penh’s trash collectors have again gone on strike over salaries and conditions in a move that could see them stop clearing the city’s streets of garbage for an extended period for the second time this year.
About 100 employees of the waste disposal firm Cintri held a protest at the company’s Dangkao district depot Monday to demand more money, the resignation of the depot chief, and the removal of military police they say have been stationed there since February’s strike.
“We just only demand whatever we did not receive the previous time, which the company agreed to resolve but has not given any attention to,” said Prak Sokha, a representative of the approximately 1,225 Cintri staff, all of whom he said had gone on strike.
Mr. Sokha said that housing and travel stipends and health insurance—worth a total of $35 per month—were among the workers’ demands at the previous strike, which ended after four days of negotiations during which the workers finally agreed to accept pay raises of between $20 and $25—the first salary increase for Cintri staff in 10 years.
Khuon Yano, Choeung Ek commune police chief, said that the new dispute was triggered after Cintri management reported two staff for taking “leftover” gas from garbage trucks’ tanks at the end of their shifts. Cintri confiscated $300 from one of the men as repayment.
The two were arrested and questioned by military police at the depot before being released on the proviso that they would no longer sell “leftover” gasoline.
Mr. Sokha, however, claimed that Cintri had previously agreed that drivers could take and sell a maximum of two liters of gasoline per shift.
Rum Sambo, 33, who has driven for Cintri for more than seven years, said that drivers were allowed to take four or five liters of gasoline at the end of each shift and claimed that military police were being used to intimidate fear in the workers.
“After we joined the previous strike, the company pressured us to stop protesting against the company. They replaced private security guards with armed military police to threaten us,” he said.
Seng Bunrith, a senior manager at Cintri, said those accusations were false and that staff had been warned against taking gasoline.
“We request those forces to protect public security only,” he said, declining to answer further questions.
Mom Sarorn, president of the Trade Union Federation for Increasing Khmer Employees Lifestyles, said the strike would continue until workers’ demands are met.
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