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Municipal garden workers seek severance pay in face of layoffs

Municipal garden workers seek severance pay in face of layoffs

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Laid-off municipal garden workers pray to ghost spirits for good luck as they submit a complaint to Prime Minister Hun Sen’s cabinet demanding one year’s worth of severance pay on Monday.

A GROUP of 50 laid-off municipal garden workers filed a complaint with Prime Minister Hun Sen’s cabinet on Monday demanding one year’s worth of severance pay from the Ministry of Public Works and Transport.

In compliance with an order for a reduction in contracted and temporary staffers throughout the government, the ministry plans to reduce the roughly 1,000 temporary workers charged with maintaining the capital’s gardens by half in 2010, and 271 garden workers were told that their jobs had been terminated last month. The layoffs went into effect on January 1.

“The firings have led the workers to face a lot of problems, as we cannot afford to pay rent and to support our daily living because we have not been saving money,” said Sek Phaly, who has tended gardens in Phnom Penh for the past 10 years. “Our salaries are only 250,000 riels (US$60) per month.”

Chan Tha, who said she has served as a garden worker for some 30 years, said representatives of the laid-off workers had submitted their request to city officials four times but had been told that they would not qualify for severance pay because they were not considered full-time workers.

“The state has not helped us at all,” she said. “And when we finished our work here, we did not have the money to start our own business.”

Sam Samoth, head of the city’s garden office under the Public Works Ministry, said the city had no choice but to lay off half of all overtime staff for 2010.

Lim Leang Sen, the deputy chief of Hun Sen’s cabinet, said Monday that he had received the workers’ complaint. “I will send this letter to City Hall by the evening to find a resolution,” he said.

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