Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Strikes looming over late wages for teachers

Strikes looming over late wages for teachers

Strikes looming over late wages for teachers

Teachers around the country are owed overtime wages from as far back as last year,

with nearly half a million dollars worth of unpaid wages due in Takeo province alone.

Provincial officials are being asked to cover the gap in funding by the Ministry

of Economy and Finance (MEF).

Chhay Aun, general director of administration and finance at the Ministry of Education,

Youth and Sport, told the Post that teachers from about 15 provinces were owed overtime.

Although most teachers' base salaries have allegedly been paid, there are no estimates

available for how much is owed in overtime nationwide.

"We are aware that teachers' wages are always late from month to month, but

when we have the budget we will pay it back to them" he said. "The budget

is provided by MEF. The Ministry of Education Youth and Sports is just the implementer."

But the MEF claimed it lacked the funds to pay teachers and is asking the provinces

to cover the remainder, at least temporarily.

The Post was shown a letter signed by Minister of MEF Keat Chhon, suggesting that

the money should come from provincial coffers. The letter, dated May 12 last year,

asked the governor of Takeo province to order the provincial treasury to provide

$360,000 from their 2003 budget to pay overtime wages.

Takeo Governor Lay Sokha said the provincial treasury had no budget to pay the teachers.

"They will have to wait until the national treasury provides the budget."

Teachers in Takeo province say they are barely surviving on their meager monthly

wages and need the overtime pay. Teachers are paid about $25 per month to work about

a four-hour shift each day. Those that teach a full day are entitled to overtime

pay.

"I have not received a salary for my overtime teaching for two years. I am in

a very difficult living condition" said Em Pros, a teacher at Slakou high school

in the Samraong district of Takeo. "I do not want to teach for overtime anymore,

but I'm afraid the director will dismiss me."

A teacher at Kiri Vong high school in Kiri Vong district, who asked not to be named,

said: "I am growing poorer and poorer. I have no money to pay for petrol. My

salary arrives late every month. Early next year, if I still don't get my wages for

overtime, I will stop."

Em Men, deputy chief of the Takeo province Education, Youth and Sports office said

the 2002 budget failed to pay $200,000 in teachers' overtime wages and still owed

$225,000 for the 2003 budget.

"The amount of students are increasing every year and we lack teachers, so all

the teachers at the school have to teach overtime" said Men. "We are aware

that the late-coming salary affects the living conditions of those teachers, and

we try hard to help them."

Cambodia Independent Teachers' Association president Rong Chhun said that overtime

pay was owed in provinces around the country.

"The government did not control the national budget properly and that affected

the education sector. We wrote a letter to the government in early November to ask

them to solve the problem, but no result has appeared," said Chhun.

He added that teachers were planning to strike in Battambang just days after teachers

in Pailin staged a strike on December 29.

When the 223 teachers in Pailin received part of their delayed monthly wages on the

afternoon of the strike, they returned to work after a brief walkout.

Duong Sopheap, accounting head of the Education Department in Pailin, said that the

department had owed teachers three months wages and six months overtime-about $39,000,

of which about $13,393 has been paid.

"The previous year the education department never owed the teachers wages,"

said Sopheap. "But I realized that it just coming late"

Chuon Narong said he would strike again if wages were withheld.

"If the salary still does not come on time, we will strike again," he said.

"Now we accept it temporarily."

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