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Street cleaners strike for $150

Two schoolchildren walk past a mound of rubbish at Kapko market yesterday afternoon in Phnom Penh
Two schoolchildren walk past a mound of rubbish at Kapko market yesterday afternoon in Phnom Penh. Vireak Mai

Street cleaners strike for $150

More than 1,000 sanitation workers employed by the garbage collection company Cintri were on strike yesterday, demanding their bosses increase their wage to $150 per month, representatives said.

Cintri, a subsidiary of the Canadian Firm Cintec, signed a 50-year contract in 2002 that made it solely responsible for collecting and disposing of Phnom Penh’s waste.

But about 1,200 of its 1,400 employees – which include waste collectors, equipment repairmen and street cleaners – began striking on Sunday night, demanding a pay increase, a health bonus, overtime for working on Sundays and national holidays off.

After gathering outside Cintri’s main garage in Meanchey district in protest on Sunday, negotiations came to a standstill yesterday morning, Prack Sokha, a representative for the strikers said.

“This morning we negotiated with the company director, City Hall and district officials about our demands, but we did not get any results,” Sokha said, adding that Cintri had offered workers a $15 pay raise that was subsequently rejected.

Street cleaners make a base salary of $65, garbage collectors $77, and repairmen and drivers are paid $110, according to Cintri employees.

If demands continue to be denied, strikers would be willing to compromise, Sokha said.

“We will accept if the company increases street cleaners’ pay to $100, garbage collectors’ to $120 and $130 for drivers and repairman,” he added.

But according to Cintri director Seng Savy, employees are simply asking for too much.

“We can only increase their wages by $15,” Savy said. “What they are demanding is too much, and what we get from citizens is too little.”

Ith Sopheak, a garbage collector in Russey Keo district, said yesterday that a health bonus was reasonable considering that he worked with trash for a living.

“We will continue striking until our demands are all met,” he said.

ADDITIONAL REPORTING BY AMELIA WOODSIDE

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