Hundreds of workers of Phnom Penh’s sole refuse collection company went on strike yesterday to demand better working conditions after a driver was accused of stealing petrol from the employer.
Prak Sokha, a representative of the striking Cintri workers, said the protest began after the company accused one of its drivers of siphoning petrol from the rubbish trucks.
According to Sokha, Cintri asked police to arrest the man – whom he declined to name out of fear for his safety – and ordered security guards to threaten to shoot him.
Furthermore, Sokha claimed that the company regularly allows drivers to siphon leftover gas from their vehicles at the end of the workday, a claim Cintri refused to confirm or deny.
“Drivers do not [steal] the fuel. It is said that if some remains after … working hours, the fuel in the vehicle can be siphoned,” he said.
Following the incident, about 100 workers gathered outside Cintri’s headquarters in the capital yesterday morning, calling for the company to meet at least four of its 10 demands for improved working conditions.
“The four salient points are $10 for accommodation, $15 for travel, $10 for health care and an annual bonus,” Sokha said.
According to Sokha, the majority of Cintri’s 1,000 employees did not show up for work yesterday.
In a bid to negotiate, Cintri said it would allow drivers to take 2 litres of petrol a day but refused to agree to any of the four demands, said Trade Union Federation for Increasing Khmer Employees Lifestyles president Mom Sarorn, who attended the talks.
“The company requests that workers return to work first, but they have not, because they want the company to answer their four demands first.”
Seng Solyda, deputy director of Cintri, said the company was working to find a solution, while Ministry of Labour spokesman Heng Sour said the government would intervene if necessary.
“If the workers do not agree, the ministry will help settle it,” he said.
Yesterday’s strike follows similar action in February, when rubbish was left to pile up for four days while workers called for higher wages and better working conditions.