Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Fledgling union’s leader axed

Fledgling union’s leader axed

Workers hold placards outside the Theng Sreng company in Phnom Penh’s Meanchey district yesterday during an employee protest against the firing of a newly elected union leader. Photo supplied
Workers hold placards outside the Theng Sreng company in Phnom Penh’s Meanchey district yesterday during an employee protest against the firing of a newly elected union leader. Photo supplied

Fledgling union’s leader axed

Nearly 100 construction workers protested outside the Theng Sreng company in Kandal province’s Chbar Ampov district yesterday after the firm fired a newly elected union leader on Monday.

Leang Sophea had been elected as the workers’ first-ever union representative the day before being sacked, said Sou Chhlonh, an official with Building and Wood Workers Trade Union of Cambodia, which was helping workers form a union.

“The company has exploited their labour for nearly 10 years, but the workers did not dare to protest,” said Chhlonh. “They had only just elected a union, but the company already is discriminating against it.”

Chhlonh said 500 workers at Theng Sreng – which subcontracts workers to construction sites at boreys, gated residential communities – formed the union to improve working conditions, such as holidays, benefits, working hours and assistance for work-related injuries.

Yang Chantha, chief administrator at Theng Sreng, said Sophea was fired because he had stolen company property in the past, but admitted his unionising efforts played a key role in the decision. “He gathered workers to create a union to protest,” Chantha said. “We cannot accept his activities.”

Chantha added that all workers had signed contracts spelling out their work conditions. While the company would address their issues, Theng Sreng was following the clauses in their contracts. “They agreed to obey [contracts] and signed them,” he said. “So if they did not favour it, they should not have signed the contracts.”

Sophea denied Chantha’s claim that he had stolen company property, adding that he was accused only after he helped unionise the workers.

“We must create a union to demand [better] working conditions because the company is exploiting our workers,” he added.

Sophea said he heard that management had decided to fire him on Monday but only told him on Tuesday to not come to work.

Moeun Tola, head of labour rights group Central, said the company’s actions contravened the recently passed Trade Union Law, which gave workers the right to organise and elect a union leader of their choice.

“The employer cannot just terminate workers because they decide to form a union,” he said. “But this commonly happens.”

While union creation is widely prevalent among garment and footwear workers, Tola said construction workers have had limited success because many of them are sub-contracted to various companies, making it hard to ascertain which firm was liable for the workers.

“And construction workers are struggling because they are working in dangerous conditions and face occupational safety hazards,” Tola said.

MOST VIEWED

  • With herd immunity likely in 2022, is Cambodia ready to reopen for tourism?

    The government aims to inoculate 80 per cent of the target population by June next year, giving it a head start among regional peers to reboot the sector but first, it has to do a few things to up its game A sign on a glass

  • US wants 'full access' to Ream Naval Base

    On June 11, the US embassy's Defense Attaché Colonel Marcus M Ferrara visited Ream Nava Base in coordination with Cambodian officials following the recent approval of Prime minister Hun Sen to allay the concerns on Chinese military presence at the base as raised by US Deputy

  • US embassy guard gets Covid despite two doses of Pfizer jab

    The Covid-19 tracking commission on June 4 said a security guard at the US embassy in Phnom Penh had contracted the novel coronavirus, despite having received a second dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech shot two weeks ago. Embassy spokesperson Chad Roedemeier confirmed the SARS-CoV-2 infection to The

  • Jab drive heading to 5 provinces

    The government is set to vaccinate more than 1.2 million people in five provinces after finishing with Phnom Penh and neighbouring Kandal in an ongoing campaign administered by the ministries of Health and National Defence. The five provinces are Preah Sihanouk, Kampong Speu, Takeo, Kampong Cham

  • New immigration bill targets illegal foreigners in Kingdom

    General Department of Immigration (GDI) officials are discussing revisions to the new draft law on immigration to prevent foreigners from entering Cambodia illegally and to supervise those living in the Kingdom more effectively. The revisions draw wide support among civil society organisations. GDI director-general Kirth

  • Kingdom set to be a gold producer

    Cambodia will soon join the roster of gold producing countries after the government announced the commencement of commercial gold mining operations in the Okvau area in southwestern Mondulkiri province's Keo Seima district from June 21. Prime Minister Hun Sen on June 10 announced that after 14 years of