Garbage Workers Break From Union, Say They Want Money Not Promises

2 min read
Striking Cintri workers stand in the company’s parking lot for garbage trucks in Phnom Penh’s Daun Penh district on October 7, 2020. (Tran Techseng/VOD)

Garbage collection workers remain on strike despite a union urging them to accept a deal from City Hall, with the workers saying they want to see payments not promises.

Workers at Phnom Penh’s waste management operator Cintri have been on strike for over a week ahead of an anticipated restructuring of trash collection in the city. City officials have said three companies will soon split Cintri’s work after the city took over the company’s operations a year ago.

Workers fear they will lose accrued benefits and want to be paid out before the changes happen, but the union says severance payments aren’t legal while the company still operates.

“Now we don’t have any union representative or any representative, because the unionists, they no longer dare to intervene,” said Rong Saray, a Cintri worker. “We are joining our hands together to strike.”

Saray added that the workers don’t trust City Hall’s promises. They barely even know who their boss is — whether the company or City Hall is in charge, he said.

“They don’t provide any specific information to us,” he said. “So if they don’t even clarify that, what can we depend on?”

“It’s only a promise,” Saray added. “It’s air. … We don’t want it.”

Saray urged whoever is in charge to clear the payments for salaries, seniority payments, severance and compensation.

Touch Kosal, president of the Cambodian Tourism Workers Union Federation, distanced himself from the ongoing strike.

“I didn’t incite the workers. In fact, what I call for is following the law, and urge them all to go back to work,” Kosal said.

Under the law, the workers can’t demand seniority and other payments while their company is still operating, he said.

But about 1,400 workers, including 300 truck drivers, still refused, he said. City Hall had made no indication it would continue negotiations, he added.

Kao Sokwat, a union member and Cintri worker, said he asked the workers to go back to work, but he also supported their stand.

“They want the money right now,” Sokwat said, though some had taken the Phnom Penh governor’s offer of rice and started working again, he said.

City Hall spokesperson Met Measpheakdey could not be reached for comment.

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