Philip Ruddock, who served as Australia’s immigration minister between 1996 and 2003 and now serves as the government’s chief parliamentary whip, has described Prime Minister Hun Sen’s government as a “one-party state,” and said that Australia is concerned about the shooting deaths of five strike protesters in January.
About 200 employees of Phnom Penh’s waste disposal company Cintri protested Monday morning outside the company’s truck depot in Meanchey district, demanding improvements in working conditions and an increase in their base salary.
Prak Sokha, a representative of the protestors, said they presented nine demands to Cintri management that will improve conditions for the firm’s 1,225 workers, including raising salaries to $200 per month, providing uniforms for free, and providing health insurance and housing stipends.
“We want to make clear that we are protesting peacefully to demand better working conditions for the staff,” Mr. Sokha said, adding that of nine demands raised, the two most important were ensuring better pay and eliminating a $15 fee for uniforms.
Mom Sarorn, president of the Trade Union Federation for Increasing Khmer Employees Lifestyles, said that during a meeting Monday, Cintri management agreed to raise the basic monthly salary for general staff from $65 to $80, and from $70.5 to $95 for daytime waste collectors. Nighttime waste collectors were offered a salary increase from $97.5 to $110, and daytime garbage truck drivers were offered an increase from $110 to $120, and from $120 to $135 for nightshift drivers.
However the proposed increase is not enough.
“We will continue to negotiate [today] until we have arrived at an appropriate solution—we have thumbprints from 300 workers and we will continue to protest until a solution is found,” Mr. Sarorn said.
Protestors gathered outside the Cintri yard Monday shared Mr. Sarorn’s sentiment that the increases offered were not enough.
“Every day, I struggle to live off my low salary, so I will not work until the company has found a solution,” said Kan Chor, a 31-year-old waste collector.
Ngoun Sipheng, Cintri operations manager, admitted that it had been 10 years since staff salaries had been raised, but after meeting with union leaders and representatives of the company had agreed to increase wages within the bounds of what the firm can afford.
“We have agreed to increase their salaries, but they are not agreeing and are still protesting. We really want to increase their salaries more, but we cannot increase it at the moment,” he said.
He also denied that workers had to pay for company T-shirts but instead pay a $15 deposit that will be refunded when they are returned.
“We give them back their money if they give the shirt back to the company, no matter how worn out it is,” he said.
Cintri will continue negotiations Tuesday, he added.
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