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Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - 600 workers at Camko City protest over pay

600 workers at Camko City protest over pay

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090514_11.jpg

Subcontractor misses deadlines to complete payment of monthly wages prompting strike action and protest

Photo by: Tracey Shelton

A worker continues construction Wednesday at Camko City after a protest the previous day.

SIX hundred construction workers at Phnom Penh's Camko City satellite city held a protest over unpaid wages Tuesday, saying they would cease working until their wages were fully paid.

When the workers went to receive their monthly wages on April 25 from Hanil Engineering and Construction - the company contracted to build Camko City - they were turned back and told they would receive payment on April 30, a construction worker said. The labourers returned on the 30th but only received half their wages. After not receiving the remainder of their payment on Monday, the workers protested and went on strike, he said.

"It was not a big violent protest ... but some of us threw rocks to the building, and most of us expressed anger," said Heng Pov, 30, who has been a construction worker at Camko City for about year. "The company lied to us again and again about our salary."

Kheng Ser, assistant to the vice president of Camko City, said the strike had nothing to do with the developer, but was a matter that needed to be resolved by the subcontractor, Hanil Engineering and Construction.

"We as the developer are not in charge of paying workers," he said.

The development, slated to cost around US$2 billion, is scheduled to be finished on time in 2018, said Kheng Ser.

Hanil Engineering and Construction was unavailable for comment on Wednesday.

The construction company, according to workers, says they will pay everybody on Wednesday.

Until then, work at the Camko City site is inching forward, but on Wednesday there was no evidence of continued protest.

About 1,000 labourers work at the Camko City site, and the roughly 400 workers who did receive their full salaries appeared to be back at work on Wednesday.

But many of the unpaid workers are staying home until the 20th, Heng Pov said, slowing construction in some areas.

"If, on May 20, we don't get payment then we will strike again," he said.

The construction workers are paid about US$4 a day, and Heng Pov said that if they were paid on time, they would all be happy to work on the project until completion.

Sok Sovandeith, president of the Cambodia National Federation of Building and Woodworkers, said that the workers should receive timely payment or they would go hungry.

"If they are not paid for a week, they will have nothing to eat for a week as well," said Sok Sovandeith.

He believes that, as a major international company, Korea-based Hanil Construction and Engineering wants to pay the workers on time, but the process is often slowed by international bureaucracy and poor communication with subcontractors.

"The company does not want to do that. They want to pay them faster, but money is slow," he said.

Earlier this year, a few hundred workers also went on strike to demand that their salary be paid on time, and once payment was settled, work continued.

Despite the strikes, there is no union or labour leader emerging amongst the workers, Heng Pov said.

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