THIRTY workers involved in the restoration of the Angkor complex’s Ta Prohm temple were barred by their manager from entering the work site yesterday because of their unionism, labour representatives said.
The stand-off followed the manager’s announcement that on February 1, he would dismiss the 30 workers, who had been attempting to negotiate a collective bargaining agreement and calling for the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) to pay seniority benefits to seven other fired workers, American Center for Internat-ional Labour Solidarity program officer Khun Tharo said.
El Sarath, one of the union members allegedly set to be sacked, said manager Deyendra Singh Sood had not provided specific reasons for their sacking but said he was following his government’s orders.
“He didn’t tell us why, so we didn’t agree,” Sarath said.
If Sood carried out his threat, all 145 workers would ask the Siem Reap authorities for permission to strike, said Eung Khoy, vice-president of the Angkor Preservation Workers Union-Indian-Cambodian Cooperation Project.
Sood said the decision – made for budgetary reasons – was not up to him because the project was run jointly by ASI and the Apsara Authority for the Protection and Management of Angkor, with approval from both governments.
Chan Sokhom Cheta, chief of Siem Reap’s Labour and Vocational Training Department, said he had suggested Sood allow the 30 to continue working and would intervene further if Sood fired the workers.
Dinesh Patnaik, India’s ambassador to Cambodia, said the workers were temporary labourers who did not have contracts from which they could be fired, or that would ensure benefits. He added that ASI was simply a contractor for the Apsara Authority.
But Moeun Tola, head of the labour program at the Community Legal Education Center, said that as the direct supervisor of the work, ASI was the workers’ employer under the labour law, adding that although the workers did not have written contracts, they had binding verbal contracts.