More than 20 Caltex workers resumed their strike in Phnom Penh on Friday afternoon after U.S. oil giant Chevron asked them to sign a document promising they would not protest in the future.
A 10-day strike by workers seeking a minimum monthly wage of $160 ended on May 21 with an agreement that Chevron, which operates under the Caltex brand name in Cambodia, would raise their salaries by $20.
However, Chevron angered some workers by asking them to sign a document promising not to participate in any further strikes, protests or work stoppages. The agreement also asks workers to wait two months after a grievance arises before submitting a formal complaint to the Ministry of Labor.
“When I saw this agreement, I saw that it prevents our right to demand or strike to seek requests. If we agree to this, what will we do when we want more money?” said Seng Dara Chaom, a 33yearold gas pumper protesting on Friday at a Caltex station on Norodom Boulevard.
“This agreement is like tying my legs,” said Sok Chea, 20, also a pumper at the station. “Although we have started our strike again, I don’t care about getting or not getting my salary. The important thing is that they have to change their policies trying to take away our rights.”
Sar Mora, the president of the Cambodian Food and Service Workers Federation, led the workers’ strike for higher wages, which began on May 12. He criticized Caltex for attempting to infringe on workers’ right to strike in the future.
“On the meeting day [May 21], Caltex seemed to be honest, but not now,” he said.
Mr. Mora said that of the 17 Caltex stations in Phnom Penh whose workers participated in the strike, six had reopened by Thursday and nine were open on Friday. Although only around three stations were affected by Friday’s protests, Mr. Mora said he believed workers’ unhappiness with the strikeending agreement would spread and lead to a larger strike on Saturday.
Chevron spokesperson Chanlek Than said in a statement that the company hoped the remaining strikers would begin work again immediately.
“Our offer set out steps to resolve differences in the future in a constructive manner which recognize the employee’s right to voice their concerns,” she added.