India’s ambassador to Cambodia, Dinesh Patnaik, said yesterday that his government will pay outstanding benefits to about 30 restoration workers who lost their jobs at Siem Reap province’s Ta Prohm temple in February – but will not reinstate them.
The entire restoration team – more than 100 workers – protested in February, claiming that workers, some of them union representatives, had been unfairly dismissed and replaced with about 25 other workers.
The Archeological Survey of India (ASI), which runs the project for Cambodia’s APSARA Authority, said at the time that the workers had been hired on a daily basis and let go because there was no work for them.
Patnaik said yesterday that there had been “some confusion” about ASI’s obligation under the Labour Law to provide the employees who had worked for more than a year certain benefits.
India, he said, was now prepared to pay them what they were owed, but he would not reveal how much that figure was.
“They were hired on a daily basis,” he said. “That was the thing we did not understand about this. But whatever they are owed, they will get.”
The workers, however, will not be accepted back, Patnaik added.
“There is no work for them. We will wind down next year.”
Dave Welsh, American Center for International Labor Solidarity country manager, said the ambassador had told him during a recent meeting that Indian authorities would meet their financial obligations.
“But part of the Arbitration Council decision was to reinstate 31 workers,” he said. “[Patnaik said] no new positions could be created, so that could only be done by the new workers brought in being replaced.”
Welsh said ASI had previously believed it had not entered into an employer/employee relationship and was not subject to the Kingdom’s Labour Law.
“ASI said Cambodian labour law didn’t apply to them because the Indian government was paying for the project,” he said, adding that they had since promised to make amends financially.
El Sarath, a worker representative, said workers would continue to fight to ensure ASI respected the Arbitration Council’s decisions, including that the workers be reinstated, paid benefits and be allowed to collectively bargain.
Additional reporting by Thik Kaliyann