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Striking Caltex employees hold placards in front of a Caltex service station yesterday in Phnom Penh to demand an increase to their wages
Striking Caltex employees hold placards in front of a Caltex service station yesterday in Phnom Penh to demand an increase to their wages. Vireak Mai

Caltex staff walk off the job

Dry-tanking customers pulling into Caltex petrol stations in Phnom Penh yesterday were greeted by uniformed employees holding banners demanding pay raises and an annual bonus.

All Caltex branches in the capital shut their doors yesterday when employees walked off the job after several failed rounds of wage negotiations, said Ou Tep Phallin, deputy president of the Cambodian Food and Service Workers’ Federation (CFSWF).

“Union members voted and decided to strike until the company comes to an agreement with workers,” he said.

About 300 of approximately 530 employees across the country went on strike, demanding a minimum monthly wage of $160 and an annual $160 bonus, he added.

Phnom Penh is home to 17 of Caltex’s 26 stations in the Kingdom, according to Phallin. The company’s website, which last updated the total in April 2013, says there are 24 stations in Cambodia, 18 of them in the capital.

Caltex is marketed by Chevron (Cambodia) Limited – a subsidiary of United States-based Chevron.

“Our salary does not meet our expenses,” said Luk Bonavatey, 21, as she and about 40 other employees stood outside a station in Chamkarmon district in protest yesterday.

Cashiers now earn $130, service staff $110 and cleaners $100, Bonavatey said.

Workers filed a complaint with Caltex’s board of directors two months ago, but to no avail, 39-year-old employee Chou Sovanna said.

Union officials met with Caltex brass four times this year; however, they have only succeeded in raising cleaners’ monthly salary from $90 to $100, Phallin said.

A Caltex petrol station is quiet as the petrol bowsers are shut off yesterday during a strike for better pay in Phnom Penh’s Chamkarmon district
A Caltex petrol station is quiet as the petrol bowsers are shut off yesterday during a strike for better pay in Phnom Penh’s Chamkarmon district. Heng Chivoan

Even though Caltex offers annual health care subsidies to employees, the amounts and structuring are unacceptable, said Hang Huot, a 45-year-old veteran service staff member. Although the strike is for wages, not health care, he complained that service workers receive the least.

“People who work in the air-conditioned room get $200 to $300 [in health care subsidies] per year, but the filling staff, who face the most health problems, get $100,” Huot said, pointing out that inhaling petrol fumes can cause many complications. “We should at least get a similar health payout.”

Chan Lek, a Caltex communications officer, did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

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