Sixty restoration workers at Ta Prohm temple in Siem Reap province put down their tools Thursday and protested in front of the temple alongside 31 former workers who lost their jobs last year and are demanding to be rehired by the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI), which leads the project.
The Indian government-run organization has been managing the restoration at the temple since 2004, with work on the 10-year project scheduled to end this year.
Claiming unfair dismissal, the 31 workers took their grievance to the Arbitration Council in February last year. The council recommended that ASI rehire the 31 employees.
ASI and the Indian Embassy said at the time that there was only enough work for 60 staff—all of whom are non-contracted and paid a day rate—but promised to pay severance and seniority benefits to the dismissed workers.
Ing Khoy, one of the 31 workers who lost their jobs last year, said Thursday’s protest sought to force ASI to reinstate the workers.
“If the Indian Embassy does not help us with this matter we will take the protest to the Cambodian government—and if they do take us back to work, we will ask them to pay us more money than the $3 per day,” said Mr. Khoy, who is also vice president of the Angkor Preservation Union of Workers.
He said the 60 current employees had joined the strike to push for contracts to ensure they would receive all their entitlements once work on the temple ended.
Im Sokrithy, the spokesman for Apsara Authority, which administers the temples of Angkor, said there was not enough work to rehire the workers.
“The Indian project wants to pay them severance benefits, but they [workers] do not accept because they want jobs,” he said.
He added that the Apsara Authority is not involved with paying workers since the restoration of Ta Prohm is an Indian-funded project.
“They manage it by themselves and they are responsible for paying and settling the issue,” he said, adding that ASI has warned the 60 remaining workers that if the strike continues, they will lose their right to seniority benefits.
ASI’s project leader at the temple, D.S. Sood, said that, on the contrary, Apsara Authority has the ultimate authority on the project and was involved in decisions about compensation.
He said the dismissed workers had already been informed that all outstanding benefits would be paid according to Cambodian law.
“But they continue to demand reinstatement and we have little scope for work as the project is nearing completion,” he said, adding that if the workers continued striking, ASI would be forced to hire replacements.