City Hall yesterday accused striking rubbish collectors of holding the city hostage as negotiations failed to reach an agreement on the third day of industrial action.
Workers for Phnom Penh’s sole waste collection firm, Cintri, are demanding a pay rise of at least $30 per month for collectors and street sweepers, while drivers and mechanics are seeking to almost double their current maximum wage of $130.
City Hall spokesman Long Dimanche urged the workers and Cintri to reach an agreement.
“We call on the company and workers to negotiate to resolve the problem as soon as possible without using the waste as a tool to kidnap the people of our city,” he said.
He added that public order forces in outlying districts of the capital had been mobilised to fill the gap in collection.
Cleaners and street sweepers currently receive a monthly wage from $90 to $120 but are now asking for $150, while drivers and mechanics are seeking $250 per month.
Aunny Ieng, deputy governor of Phnom Penh, said that up to 2,000 tonnes of waste is produced in the capital every day.
But Prak Sokha, a Cintri worker, said a strike was the only way to bring attention to their demands.
“When there are garbage and other waste crises, people realise how important our job is. Usually people look down on us and do not appreciate what we do,” he said.
He added that workers face a number of health problems due to exposure to hazardous waste and deserved a higher standard of living.
“We work up to 10 hours a day, exposing us to diseases, accidents and insults from the rich who are drunk and arrogant every day,” Sokha said.
Ngoun Sipheng, operations manager for Cintri, could not be reached yesterday.
Workers yesterday said they would continue to strike today as no agreement had been reached. Cintri has agreed to give rubbish collectors and street sweepers raises of $15 and drivers and mechanics $30 a month, falling far short of their demands.
City residents yesterday said they would stop paying their waste collection fees if the strike continued.
In July, a strike by Cintri workers ended after the company agreed to wage increases of between $5 and $10 and suggested another set of raises may be in the offing next year.
ADDITIONAL REPORTING BY DANIEL PYE