Garbage was beginning to pile up on Phnom Penh’s streets yesterday, after workers at the city’s sole rubbish removal contractor again went on strike.
Truck drivers for Cintri walked off the job on Sunday because the company would no longer allow them to siphon petrol from company trucks and sell it for profit after shifts, a privilege previously allowed, said worker representative Prak Sokha.
“In the previous negotiation [in July], the company said leftover gas is permitted to siphon, so drivers could sell it; but now they don’t allow it [anymore],” Sokha said of talks that ended a strike over the summer.
During a day-long meeting yesterday, the company agreed to further siphoning, but refused to yield to trash collectors’ new appeal for higher salaries.
Drivers now insist on a $300 monthly salary while trash collectors want $200, Sokha said. Collectors now earn between $95 and $115 per month, while drivers earn from $120 to $150.
“We demand basic monthly wages and eight-hour workdays,” Sokha said.
More than 1,000 Cintri employees refused to show up for work yesterday, as representatives, management and officials from City Hall met at the company’s Chamkarmon district headquarters.
While management agreed to at least temporarily resume allowing drivers to siphon and sell unused petrol from their shifts, the move – which benefits drivers, not collectors – is not enough to placate workers, said Mom Sarom, president of the Trade Union Federation for Increasing Khmer Employees Lifestyles.
“[Garbage collectors’] work is more difficult than garment workers’ work, and they risk contracting diseases from rummaging through waste piles,” Sarom said.
Cintri cannot afford to pay what strikers are asking for, said Seng Bunarith, Cintri’s senior director of research and development.
“We are not capable of meeting their demand; it is impossible,” Bunarith explained.