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Striking Sorya Transportation workers hold placards at the firm’s bus station in Phnom Penh
Striking Sorya Transportation workers hold placards at the firm’s bus station in Phnom Penh yesterday. Pha Lina

Bus strikers ‘return to work’

About 20 Phnom Penh Sorya Transportation bus service workers who were on strike outside a company garage in Russey Keo district yesterday agreed to go back to work, at least until the Arbitration Council hears their grievances.

After striking in the morning alongside 50 other employees protesting in support of the company, dissatisfied employees had agreed to return to their posts, said Sambath Vorn, a representative for the newly conceived bus union.

“If the Arbitration Council does not find justice for us, we will protest forever,” he said.

Union representatives said on Thursday that after multiple employees were fired in the lead-up to Khmer New Year, the representatives sent letters asking the Labour Ministry to intervene to have them reinstated.

General manager Chan Sophanna said that the 50 employees supporting the company yesterday morning decided to show up in solidarity with Sorya for fear the protesters were “destroying the honour of the company”.

“The company did not organise for our staff to do this – they volunteered to do it by themselves. Our company still keeps the same stance because what they demand is not [guaranteed] under the Labour Law.”

Dave Welsh, country manager for labour rights group Solidarity Center, said the employees had taken a positive step by asking the Ministry of Labour to intervene.

“The company doesn’t have to fulfil every demand but it’s in the best interests of all parties to continue engaging and negotiating,” Welsh said.

More than 60 workers went on strike on April 3, days before the country’s transportation companies geared up for increased business over Khmer New Year, a period when travel numbers sharply increase.

But, following negotiations, Sorya agreed to end a policy of fining drivers $750 for transporting people or goods without a ticket, leading virtually all employees to return to work.

The most recent strikes, immediately after Khmer New Year, were sparked by workers who had held out, those who had second thoughts about going back to work and those protesting against workers being fired.

ADDITIONAL REPORTING BY AMELIA WOODSIDE

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