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Rail workers protest pay freeze

Rail workers protest pay freeze

091119_05
Striking rail workers gather at the Phnom Penh Railway Station on Wednesday to demand that the government pay their salaries for the past two months.

THREE hundred rail workers demonstrated inside Phnom Penh Railway Station on Wednesday to demand that the government pay two months’ back salary.

In June, the government awarded Australia’s Toll Holdings a 30-year contract to manage the Phnom Penh-Poipet line after receiving a loan from the Asian Development Bank to revitalise the war-battered rail route. In a further administrative shuffle, an October 1 decree placed the railroad, formerly an independent state entity, under a new Railway Department within the Ministry of Public Works and Transport.

Neang Rithearom, a rail employee, said 1,000 workers have been kept in the dark. “Allowing a foreign company to invest in the railway will help us ... attract more customers, but the government still has a responsibility to pay our salaries,” he said.

The Ministry of Public Works and Transport said the October salaries would be paid on November 27, but gave no date for November’s wages.

Ly Borin, former deputy director of the independent railroad, said Toll would pay the salaries of 670 out of 1,000 employees. The rest will be paid by the Railway Department, he said.

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