Scuffles broke out Monday during a protest outside the Phnom Penh Sorya Transportation company as former bus drivers and some 100 unionists clashed with Daun Penh district security guards as a campaign to rehire the sacked employees entered its fifth month.
The protesters—including 17 drivers who were fired in April after they attempted to form a union and went on strike demanding better wages and working conditions—blocked the road outside the office at about 8:30 a.m with 10 tuk-tuks and set about trying to persuade potential passengers to boycott the company.
About 50 district security guards led by deputy district governor Sok Penvuth attempted to clear the road leading to a shoving match between the two sides.
Mr. Penvuth said protesters had broken the law by blocking the road. “Who blocked the road? Which unions? We will arrest those unions because we cannot allow them to block public roads,” he said.
Vorn Pao, president of the Independent Democracy of Informal Economy Association, or IDEA, who joined the protest in solidarity with the fired drivers, said violence was not the solution to ending the labor dispute.
“The company continues to use violence but the drivers were right to appeal to national and international passengers to not travel with the company,” he said.
After reviewing the case last month, the Arbitration Council advised the company to reinstate the drivers. But Sorya rejected the nonbinding ruling four days later.
On Monday, the company continued its tactic of using two loudspeakers to drown out the protesters.
Sorya’s general manager, Chan Sophanna, said the company’s board of directors would not agree to rehire the former drivers, and appealed for City Hall to prevent further protests. He denied that the company had set up loudspeakers to annoy the disgruntled former employees.
“Their accusations are untrue. We use the loudspeakers to sell drinking water and other beverages,” he said.