Plantation Workers End Strike With Little Gain

Nearly 200 rubber plantation workers in Mondolkiri province on Thursday ended a three-day strike over wages and working conditions, despite not having resolved their concerns with Socfin KCD, the controversial French firm that owns the plantation.

According to Chan Sokun, an administrator at Socfin’s Pech Chreada district headquarters, said the workers had been protesting because the company cut their daily wage from $6 to $5 in 2013 and had not given them a raise since.

“The workers did not dare to protest [before] because they were afraid that the company’s owner would fire them,” he said, adding that even though he earns $231 per month, he joined the strike in solidarity.

“We just decided to protest now because the company put more pressure on the workers,” he said.

Mr. Sokun said the laborers attended a six-hour meeting at the company’s offices on Wednesday but that management acceded to just one of their demands, allowing a fired driver to return to work. The workers had also been calling on Socfin to increase their daily wage to $7.50 and reduce their working hours from 10 to eight per day, he explained.

Mr. Sokun said the company had pledged to restructure so that 180 seasonal workers would be employed full-time within a year, and to solve the outstanding issues in the next three months.

“We will continue to protest if they do not keep their promise,” he said.

Banh Sroeut, 26, who has worked on the plantation for seven years, said she would return to work today, but that she was not happy with the decision to end the strike.

“I will go to the company to demand increasing my daily wage to at least 25,000 riel [about $6] and if the company refuses to pay, I will stop working and turn to farming,” she said.

Since it was awarded a 4,062 hectare concession in 2009, rights groups have accused Socfin of pressuring ethnic minority communities in the area into selling their ancestral land.

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