Earlier this month, workers for CINTRI (Cambodia), the company contracted to pick up trash in Phnom Penh, went on strike. Though a deal to improve wages and conditions was ultimately struck, disagreements remain. The Post’s Hor Kimsay talks to Seng Savy, president of CINTRI, about workers, the company’s bottom line, and plans for improved service.
Now that the strike is over, will CINTRI eventually consider raising wages again, since trash collectors and other workers didn’t receive the full amount they wanted in exchange for returning to the job?
The issue is solved. Any time we have the ability, we’ll raise them more. We now have a total of 1,400 workers. We cannot raise the salary any more at the moment. Workers need to understand the difficulty of the company. We don’t have much net income, but we did all that so we could solve the problem. The company is not making money. The rate that people pay is low and there are many people who do not pay the company for the services. The price for city residents is $1 for ground floor and from there on up, 80 cents a floor.
There are many city residents who still complain about CINTRI’s waste collection services. Are their views accurate?
This is what we are considering with the Phnom Penh Municipality: to do reform. Everything is still not acceptable in terms of cleaning the city. We are preparing a new clear schedule to collect the rubbish. It will not be too long now. We will activate it soon because I have studied this at length already.
What are some of the challenges?
There is about 1,400 tons of rubbish in Phnom Penh per day, an increase from 800 tons in 2002. And the amount of waste increases about 13 per cent annually. The service charge is low and a large number of people never pay. About 20 per cent of all people who should pay never pay. There are many challenges in this work, but soon, I believe that the work will be better than the current performance. The service charge should be higher. But I cannot say how much it is as it depends on the decision from the Phnom Penh Municipality.
Have you ever thought about moving into recycling?
We have studied it and the thing is, it’s about loss. The nature of a business is to make a profit. We found that an investment in recycling cannot be sustained. So, in order to make the plant exist, the government needs to help. Also, the amount of usable waste to recycle is just little. Some items from individual households are stored in their own house. Any items that they can sell, people do not throw it away. If all household waste is thrown to us, we will have enough material to establish a recycling factory.
This interview has been edited for length and clarity