Caltex Strike Continues as Others Grow Envious

On the third day of their city-wide strike, about 100 Caltex employees protested Wednesday at the petrol giant’s station on the corner of Monivong and Mao Tse Toung Boulevards.

All seventeen Caltex stations across Phnom Penh remained closed as approximately 300 workers continued agitating for higher wages and a range of additional benefits.

Striking Caltex workers cheer during a demonstration Wednesday at the Caltex Bokor station on Monivong Boulevard in Phnom Penh calling for a higher salary and an annual bonus. (Siv Channa)
Striking Caltex workers cheer during a demonstration Wednesday at the Caltex Bokor station on Monivong Boulevard in Phnom Penh calling for a higher salary and an annual bonus. (Siv Channa)

“We want $160 a month since our salary today cannot support our families. We cannot send our children to school,” said Choun Sophornara, a cashier.

Most workers currently make $110 a month and are calling for a $50 boost, as well as an annual bonus equivalent to one month’s salary.

In April, the company—a brand name of the U.S.-based Chevron Corporation—raised salaries from $90 a month, but employees and their union insist the new figure still doesn’t reflect rising food prices and inflation.

As Caltex workers remain steadfast in their strike, meanwhile, some at the city’s other gas stations said they were envious of the action.

“We want to hold a strike, too, but we cannot do it since we don’t have a union and leaders supporting us,” said Theary, an employee at one of the city’s Sokimex stations, who asked that her family name not be used.

Theary, who is 27 and has two children, said she struggled to support her family on a salary of just $100 a month from the company, which is owned by tycoon Sok Kong.

“We can’t live with the salary since the price of rent, food, and utilities keep rising,” she said.

At another Sokimex station across town, an employee who asked not to be named said he hoped his colleagues might follow suit.

“I have to wait and see what the other employees do. If they hold a strike, I will join them,” said the staffer, who makes $120 a month after having worked at the station for three years.

“We’re afraid that the company could not provide us with that salary since it belongs to a local businessman,” he said. “But they should give us $160 a month since we’re working very hard.”

Attendants at stations around town, meanwhile, said they had seen a boost in business this week.

“We have been pumping petrol non-stop since the Caltex workers went on strike,” said an employee at a Tela station.

This is just what Caltex strikers have been banking on.

“They will lose clients and they will lose profit,” predicted Mr. Sophornara, the Caltex cashier, of his employer.

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