While Phnom Penh’s garbage truck drivers returned to work yesterday following a brief strike, piles of refuse continued to mount in parts of the city, as trash collectors who had joined the drivers’ cause were continuing the strike alone as of 7pm.
On Monday, drivers of Cintri, the city’s sole refuse collection company, went on strike after one of their colleagues was accused of stealing petrol, threatened with being shot by a security guard and then briefly detained.
After the company agreed to fire both the garage director and the guard who allegedly made the threat, the drivers agreed yesterday to return to work.
But at least 30 of the company’s trash collectors, who had joined the protest to demand better working conditions, continued to strike yesterday.
“The drivers agreed to the resolution, but the waste collectors are still creating a problem. There are only about 30 on strike but they’re trying to stop others from working,” said City Hall Deputy Governor Aunny Ieng.
Ieng added that many of the remaining protesters’ 10 demands, which include stipends for travel, accommodation and health care, came not from the workers themselves but from the union.
Mom Sarorn, president of the Trade Union Federation for Increasing Khmer Employees Lifestyles, dismissed the allegation. “This is the program of the worker, it’s not about me,” she said.
But Im Un, a Cintri driver who returned to work yesterday, said the union’s list of demands was not important enough to him to keep him out of work.
“I need those things, but not enough [to keep striking]. The union suggested them,” he said. “The [demands] are important, but I’m not sure if the company has the money to meet them after increasing our pay already this year,” he added, referring to the wage increases offered following similar strike in February.
Nuon Sipheng, a Cintri director, agreed.
“We have just increased it once and now they demand more on top of that. Keeping up with them is so difficult,” he said.
Ieng, the deputy governor, said that with more than 1,600 tonnes of garbage accumulating each day in Phnom Penh, a solution needed to be reached quickly.
“We need to resolve it as soon as possible, before we rest the King Father’s ashes” on Friday, he said, adding that volunteers had been brought in to help tackle the mounting waste.
Owners of businesses located next to a large pile of garbage near Wat Koh called for a quick solution.
Nou Thyda, a food vendor, said her business was suffering. “People don’t want to eat here because of the smell,” she said.