Sanitation Workers End Strike After Payments Promised in February

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Garbage piles up in Phnom Penh on the corner of Monireth Blvd and St 374 on October 7, 2020. (Ouch Sony/VOD)

More than 2,000 sanitation workers in Phnom Penh ended their strike and returned to work on Wednesday afternoon after City Hall and their employer promised to pay them as demanded in February.

All workers’ contracts will be made to expire at the end of January, meaning they can receive seniority, severance and other payments, according to an agreement signed by deputy governor Koeut Chhe and representatives of Cintri, workers and the Labor Ministry on Wednesday.

The workers had feared they would lose benefits accrued over years of employment at trash collector Cintri amid upcoming restructuring of the city’s waste collection operations. Officials previously said they would split the work among three qualified companies.

Rong Saray, one of the workers leading the strike, said they agreed to end their strike because they got all five of their demands and a clear deadline for compensation.

Previously there had only been verbal promises and no firm date, he said.

“The authorities and company gave written and clear information to pay the workers in the second week of February,” Saray said. “We have nothing more to demand than that.”

Union representative Kao Sovath said the sides had reached an agreement following talks on Wednesday. “The company agreed to the five demands,” Sovath said.

On Tuesday, the Phnom Penh Municipal Court issued an injunction order declaring the Cintri workers’ strike illegal and demanding that they return to work before Friday.

Saray, the worker, said the court order played no part in the workers’ decision.

City Hall spokesperson Met Measpheakdey said trash collection was now underway, and the accumulated piles of garbage around the city should soon come down to their usual levels.

“I hope that within the next two or three days, the situation will return to normal.”

Cintri spokesperson Seng Sorida could not be reached for comment.

According to Wednesday’s agreement, Phnom Penh City Hall will be the guarantor for the February payments. Workers will receive wages only for one week of their two-week strike, and they were required to be back at work from 3 p.m. Wednesday. The company will not pay wages in case of further strikes or demonstrations, the agreement says.

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