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Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Mfone workers demand pay

Mfone workers demand pay

mfone protest
Employees who were left jobless by bankrupt telco Mfone protest in front of the company's boarded-up Phnom Penh office, Sunday, March 17, 2013. Photograph: Vireak Mai/Phnom Penh Post

About 300 former employees of bankrupt telco Mfone continued their protest yesterday at the company’s former headquarters, demanding compensation for loss of seniority pay, of which some workers say they are owed $50,000.

Nim Solyda, an employee representative and former Mfone supervising engineer, said the company had told staff the problem of seniority payments would be resolved, but after several months there was no solution.

Solyda said some of the newest employees had worked for nearly two years, and the longest-serving staff had been there for more than 20.

“I calculated that some of the longest-serving staff are owed as much as $50,000, while the shortest-serving are owed up to about $2,000,” he said, adding that Mfone's owners, Thaicom and Shenington Investments, should be made to compensate employees.

“We are acting in accordance with the law, and we will continue to protest for the next few days.

“If they don’t find a solution for us, we will ask for permission to protest in the streets.”

Solyda said the protesters would take their cause to the prime minister’s residence, demanding that the issue be resolved before the Khmer New Year in mid-April.

Nob Sovannareth, who worked in Mfone's engineering department, said he had worked for the company for five years with a monthly salary of just over $300.

Sovannareth is unsure how much he is owed, but said he would continue to protest as the money was so important at a time of unemployment.

“I don’t hold out any hope, because we haven’t seen a single solution yet,” he said.

“I will participate with the staff to demand my compensation. It will really affect my family if they don’t give it to us, because we don’t have another job yet.”

The Post spoke to Matthew Rendall, a partner with the legal firm Sciaroni and Asso-ciates in January, just after Mfone filed for insolvency.

Rendall said then that although he was not familiar with the case, employees were usually the highest-priority creditors once a bankrupt company was liquidated.

“My understanding is that first listing would be employees’ salaries. Second, I think, is government taxes. Third would be secured creditors and fourth would be unsecured creditors,” he said.

Although the extent to which Mfone is in debt to employees is not yet known, the Post reported in January that it owed more than $65 million to other creditors, including the Chin-ese telco provider Huawei Technologies. The court has yet to appoint administrators to manage the liquidation.

An Mfone spokesperson did not respond to the Post’s requests for comment.

With assistance from Daniel de carteret

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