Rubbish collectors went back to work in the capital yesterday after further concessions were made following the workers’ rejection of a deal struck on Tuesday evening between union representatives and waste disposal company Cintri.
Union representatives had said they had reached a deal with the firm, which has the only contract to remove the capital’s waste, following a meeting presided over by City Hall officials on Tuesday evening.
But when the agreement was presented to workers at the company’s vehicle yard yesterday morning, street cleaners rejected the proposed offer of a $15 wage increase from their current salary of $65 per month.
Truck drivers were offered an increase of $10 to $120 in Tuesday’s scrapped deal.
Heng Sophat, a workers’ representative and truck driver, said yesterday that union officials had accepted the deal without consulting the workers.
“We agreed with them in the meeting at City Hall on Tuesday, but this morning, the workers did not accept it when we told them and they demanded more,” he said. “We negotiated with the company again this morning and later they accepted [the new terms],” he said.
Ngoun Sypheng, a representative for Cintri, confirmed yesterday that union officials had agreed to the smaller wage rises on Tuesday.
“I do not understand why they changed their minds. The workers should trust their representatives to make the decision,” she said.
Under the new agreement, street cleaners will get paid $90 per month and truck drivers will receive $130, union representative Prak Sokha said yesterday, adding that other concessions included building a new health clinic for workers, not docking pay when they require new work clothes, and social security entitlements.
Khoung Sreng, Phnom Penh deputy governor, went to Cintri’s vehicle yard yesterday morning, where about 100 workers were picketing the firm and not allowing trucks to leave to collect the refuse piling up on the capital’s streets.
With a detachment of military police and district security guards in tow, he said that the city was prepared to take action against the strikers if they did not accept a compromise.
“I cannot tell you what action I will take, but we really need the trucks out now, because we cannot leave the rubbish in the city anymore,” he said. “If we leave the garbage like this any more, Phnom Penh will become a garbage city – that we cannot accept at all.”
Sreng, speaking to the striking workers, appealed for them to end the blockade and allow the trucks to leave.
“You can continue your protest as is your right, but I need the trucks to collect the garbage,” he said.
Cintri’s Sypheng and unionist Sokha estimated that, out of about 1,400 employees at the company, almost 1,200 had taken part in the strike.
Almost 60 trucks had begun to collect the backlog of rubbish by yesterday evening, while City Hall and Cintri gave striking workers the rest of the day off, adding that they would be expected to show up for work as usual today.
The pay rises, Sypheng added, will come into effect at the end of the month.