City Bus Drivers Quit After Wage Dispute Goes Unresolved

Ten employees of Phnom Penh’s struggling bus service resigned Monday, while about 30 went back to work after a weekend protest over unpaid wages failed to sway the bus company’s stance on the matter.

On Saturday, some 40 City Bus employees, most of them drivers, protested outside the Night Market, claiming that while the municipal government promised in August to pay them between 1,200,000 and 1,400,000 riel ($300 and $350) per month, depending on seniority, they had received only 720,000 riel ($180) at the end of last month.

One of the drivers who resigned Monday, Chheang Chantho, 52, said that he and about 30 other City Bus employees went to the municipal transportation department Monday for what they thought would be a meeting with City Hall to discuss the pay discrepancy.

Instead, Mr. Chantho said, the drivers were met by Ean Sokhim, the director of the Autonomous Bus Transportation Authority, which operates the buses, who told them to return to work or quit.

Mr. Sokhim said Monday that he assumed the dispute had been resolved Saturday, when he told the workers that their salaries might be raised next year if the municipality managed to turn a profit on its three bus lines.

“We solved everything already on Saturday,” he said. “We told them that those who want to work can work and those who don’t want to work can resign,” he said Monday.

Mr. Sokhim added that eight drivers, one manager and one supervisor resigned, while the remainder went back to work.

Phnom Penh Deputy Governor Chhreang Sophann, who was scheduled to meet with the City Bus employees at the transportation department Monday, said he didn’t show up to the meeting because the workers had either quit or decided to stay with the company by the time he would have arrived.

Chak Nhuon, 34, another driver, said he opted to return to work and hope for the best, as he couldn’t afford to be unemployed.

“I am a bit disappointed, but I have no choice,” he said.

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