Phnom Penh Gardeners Threaten to Strike Over Pay, Sick Leave

About 50 of Phnom Penh’s 270 gardeners gathered at the National Assembly and then City Hall on Monday morning to deliver petitions asking for a substantial raise to their modest monthly salaries, threatening to go on strike if they were denied.

The gardeners, who prune the city’s parks and help sweep the streets, currently earn $85 a month and are asking for $150, along with permission to take off sick days without having their pay docked.

“We cannot live on this wage because it is very little,” said Khan Naren, one of the gardeners. “We have to pay for rent, water, electricity and food; then we don’t have any money left over to pay the hospital when we get sick. So we demand that City Hall increase our wage to $150 a month so we can support ourselves.”

Ms. Naren said the workers also earn no extra money for overtime.

“They don’t value our work and look down on us,” said Lor Sovann, another gardener. “When we ask for permission [for sick leave], they cut our wages.”

Noun Kimhoun, another gardener, said she and a few colleagues met briefly with a city official to hand over their petition and voice their grievances.

“He told us he would give the petition to the governor,” she said. “We told him if we do not get a response in a week we will come back and we will not clean the gardens.”

City Hall spokesman Long Dimanche confirmed receipt of the petition and that it would be forwarded to governor Pa Socheatvong.

Several of Phnom Penh’s lower-paid workers have won raises in recent months after protests and strikes.

In November, the Labor Ministry agreed to raise the monthly minimum wage in the country’s embattled garment sector from $100 to $128. In December, employees of the city’s only trash collection company, Cintri, called off a two-day strike when the city agreed to raise their wages.

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