Unpaid Nat’l Route 1 Workers Threaten Strike

By Kay Kimsong

and Brian Calvert

Another Asian Development Bank road project has come under fire, with workers on National Route 1 claiming they have not been paid in more than two months and threatening to strike.

Last week, the construction company responsible for the rehabilitation of Route 7 in Kratie province was sued over alleged contract violations. The sub-contractor said the road was not being built to proper standards and claimed the road would not last six months.

Workers from the Nopawong Construction Co, Ltd, have not received their salaries for the months of October or November, a company official confirmed.

“When we asked for the salary, the…management says its company has no money,” said Kong Han, a 40-year-old driver for company officials. He said he relies on his $100 monthly salary to feed his family, which includes two children.

Nopawong seems to have “no responsibility to pay the salaries of the workers,” said Ky Chheng Von, another worker. We will wait and see. If today there is no payment to us, we will write a letter to the Ministry of Labor and Social Affairs.”

When workers ask for a salary, the managers reply: “There is no money to pay,” he said.

After a delay of two months, Nopawong has received the money to pay the salaries and planned to do so today, said a financial officer for the company who identified himself as Chalio.

“The company just has the money in hand now,” he said.

Another Nopawong official, who asked not to be identified, said the payment process has been held up somewhere bet­ween the independent consultant, the Ministry of Public Works and Transport and the Ministry of Economy and Finance.

“This is not our fault,” the official said, adding that he was worried that news of the strikes and non-payments would hurt his company’s reputation.

Nopawong has been handing in their invoices for payment for the road work on time, the official said, but he contended those payment certificates were being held up, either by the primary consultant, Scott Wilson Kirkpatrick & Co, Ltd, or the two ministries.

Delays in payment have nothing to do with the primary consultant on the project, said Michael Porter, chief engineer for  Scott Wilson Kirkpatrick, who declined to comment further.

The ministries must approve the certificates before passing them on to the ADB, which then disburses the money.

“The workers are the first priority,”  a Nopawong official said. “I don’t want to delay their payments, [but government officials]  have a conflict between the Ministry of Public Works and the Ministry of Finance.”

He did not elaborate.

Yit Bunna, Route 1 project director for the Ministry of Public Works, said the salary problem was between Nopawong and its workers.

One Cambodian working for a local consultancy firm expressed concern for not only the workers, but for the quality of the road as well.

The shoulders of the road were not being compacted enough on Road 1, he said, speaking on conditions of anonymity.

Officials from the main contractor and the primary consulting company both refuted the claim, saying that with each step of the process, the road “density” passed inspection. Yit Bunna said the quality of road is being monitored by both local and international consultants.

ADB Country Representative Urooj Malik said his office would look further into the case of the workers.

Meanwhile, Route 7 court proceedings against China Jilin International Economic and Technical Corp moved forward, with the lawyer for a disgruntled sub-contractor asking the courts to seize the passports of foreign company officials involved in the case.

The move was meant to help settle the dispute quickly, said David Chanaiwa, lawyer for East Toyo Construction Co, Ltd.

East Toyo is suing China Jinlin over a contract dispute. East Toyo also said last week it had refused to do work on the road because the embankment specifications were falsified, rendering the road highly susceptible to erosion.

Malik said the Cambodian office of the ADB was investigating the case.




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