More than 30 construction workers representing over 100 workers in total, including Cambodian and Chinese nationals, protested on Monday to demand that the owner of a 22-storey building in Sihanoukville’s Commune III pay them four month’s salary amounting to more than $100,000. The owner had promised to pay them on April 12.
Kea Sreykum, who represented all the workers and also a Chinese language interpreter, told The Post that Cambodian and Chinese workers who are tile-layers, builders and painters had worked at the building from December until mid-March.
During their employment, the Chinese employer did not pay them their full salaries and promised to do so when the work was complete. He had only paid them money for food.
“It has been a long time that he had not paid us our salaries. We were only given money for food. Some workers have gone back home. The employer still said they would have to wait until we protested, and now he said he will pay,” Sreykum said.
Meach Nary, a construction worker from Siem Reap province said he had run out of money to buy food because the building’s owner refused to pay him for months. When he did not receive his salary, his family didn’t have money to provide for their livelihood.
“I have long done this work, perhaps six or seven months already. I have nothing and request a solution to be found. Every day, I stay at a rented room and have no money to pay for the monthly rent either.
“The employer promised a week ago that he would solve the problem but until now he has paid nothing,” he said.
The Chinese employer could not be reached for comment on Monday.
Preah Sihanouk provincial Department of Labour and Vocational Training director Yov Khemara told The Post on Monday that after the protest, department officials went down to intervene.
He said on Tuesday, all the workers would file a complaint with the department asking it to write-down what was owed to the workers and continue monitoring the situation. In case the employer fails to deliver on his promise, the provincial department should take legal action.
“Our working group took all records and will continue monitoring the employer’s promise saying that he will solve the problem for the workers on April 12. Because the construction site is not yet 100 per cent complete, it is not yet named. I don’t know either what plans the employer has,” he said.
Khemara said the employer had rented the building from a Cambodian who is a landlord. But there was no information concerning the building. The provincial Department of Labour was continuing to monitor it.
Sreykum expects that when the deadline comes, a solution will be reached. In case the employer has still not paid their salaries, she said she will stage more protests and seek intervention from the department.