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Caltex strike deal doesn’t hold up

A Caltex service station remains taped off and idle
A Caltex service station remains taped off and idle yesterday afternoon on Phnom Penh’s Monivong Boulevard. Vireak Mai

Caltex strike deal doesn’t hold up

After Caltex managers allegedly reneged on an agreement to pay workers a $20 bonus to suspend a strike for two months, employees say they would only return if the deal is in writing.

In a Friday meeting, the Cambodian Food and Service Workers Federation agreed with Caltex to suspend the strike for two months while the company reviews wages and pays workers the one-time bonus, said Sar Mora, the union’s leader.

Workers at 17 Phnom Penh branches walked off the job on May 12, demanding monthly salaries of at least $160 and an annual $160 bonus. All 18 locations in the capital are currently shut.

“On Friday, we agreed on the principle the company has proposed, that they will give a $20 bonus for waiting for two months,” Mora said.

That afternoon, Caltex human resources manager Heng Sovann told staff the company would not pay the bonus, said Yoeun Reth, 37, a Caltex staff member who attended both meetings.

“[Sovann] said we misunderstood and that she did not offer the $20,” Reth said. “[But] we all heard it with our own ears.”

In turn, Caltex employees backed out of the agreement, pledging to return only if the Friday morning deal is put in writing, Reth said.

Sovann declined to comment on the issue yesterday.

After the disagreement, Caltex management tried to persuade employees to return to work on Saturday, despite failing to reach a compromise. Some workers came in on Saturday morning, but left after a few hours, he said.

“The company is fickle, not loyal to us and it does not have a clear stance to solve the problem,” Reth said. “It is not a good point that the company tried to lobby staff to return to work without finding a resolution.”

Representatives from the Food and Service Workers Federation, Caltex and the Ministry of Labour will meet again today to continue negotiations, Mora said yesterday.

If Caltex wants to successfully negotiate, they must take steps to earn employees’ trust, he added.

“If we reach a written agreement, we will go back to work.”

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