The tit-for-tat between 17 sacked bus drivers and employees of Phnom Penh Sorya Transportation continued for a third day Wednesday, despite the company’s warning that it faced bankruptcy as a result of the drivers’ monthslong campaign to be rehired.
With nearly half of its daily services canceled and passenger numbers nose-diving, Sorya claims it is hemorrhaging profits and will be forced out of business if protests continue.
On Wednesday, at Sorya’s offices in Daun Penh district, more than 60 current employees confronted the former drivers and dozens of unionists, saying they would hold the Cambodia Labor Confederation (CLC) directly responsible should the company close down and existing staff lose their jobs.
“There are 450 employees who face losing our jobs and if we do, the union must be held responsible,” a female employee bellowed through a loudspeaker.
“If [CLC] was a good union, you would not incite customers and ask them to boycott traveling with Sorya,” she continued.
Sorya staff declined to be named or answer reporters’ questions.
The ex-drivers and unionists are standing their ground until management gives in to their demand to reinstate the 17 men, who were fired after striking over working conditions and attempting to unionize.
Despite the Arbitration Council’s nonbinding ruling that Sorya rehire the drivers, the company has insisted that it would sooner go out of business than do so, while its employees have vowed to protest toe to toe to protect their own jobs.
“If you continue to annoy us and disrupt our bus service, we will take the protest to CLC’s office—we’ll bring 10 loudspeakers and more than 100 buses there and sell our tickets from there,” the employees chanted Wednesday.
Sorya general manager Chan Sophanna said the company was preparing to file a complaint against the former drivers, though a previous complaint was dismissed after being heard by the court in May.
Pech Kimhuon, a 28-year-old former driver and member of CLC, said he was neither concerned about Sorya’s existing employees nor the threat of legal action, and that he and his former colleagues would continue to protest.
“We know the company wants to pay us full severance, but we will not accept this—we will only accept our jobs back,” he said.