Cambodian Journalists Alliance Association

After Bus Company Reneges on Promises, A Desperate Union Resumes Protests

A dozen laid off Giant Ibis workers at Giant Ibis drivers protest in front of the company’s Sen Sok district station in Phnom Penh on August 14, 2023. (Supplied)
A dozen laid off Giant Ibis workers at Giant Ibis drivers protest in front of the company’s Sen Sok district station in Phnom Penh on August 14, 2023. (Supplied)

After the bus company Giant Ibis Transport delayed concluding negotiations with 30 laid off union employees, the workers continued protests at the company’s Sen Sok district station in Phnom Penh on Monday.

Giant Ibis has repeatedly delayed the deadlines to complete negotiations, which were initially set to conclude in late May. 

The union members estimate they are collectively owed more than $100,000 by the company, according to the labor law, or around $7,000 to $8,000 per person, union leader Siem Morady says.

However, the company delayed negotiations three times since the originally agreed-upon date in late May, provoking the union to resume its protests to demand long-standing benefits after being suspended from work in April 2020, Morady says.

“We came here to maintain our stance requesting the company take us back to work, settle full payment of our long-standing severance and seniority benefits and we also urge the company to stop intimidating our union,” Morady told CamboJA.

Morady also appealed to tycoon Kith Meng, whose conglomerate Royal Group launched Giant Ibis Transport without indicating any sale or change in ownership status, according to Royal Group’s website

Kith Meng and the Royal Group did not respond to requests for comment.

During the protest, Giant Ibis Transport representative Ou Phanny — who signed agreements on behalf of the company at the negotiation at the Labour Ministry, allegedly shouted and behaved aggressively towards the union members, Morady says.

“He ranted with offensive remarks to our union members,” Morady claims. “He completely crossed the line.”

Giant Ibis Transport and Ou Phanny, the company’s representative in the negotiations, did not respond to requests for comment.

The Labor Ministry, which had been mediating the negotiations, asked the union in June to wait until after the July 23 national elections to resolve the negotiations, but no solution has been reached since, Morady says.

“A person who acts on the company’s behalf did not have the competence to make a definitive resolution for use,” said Morady, who said he has grown wary of what he considers the company’s ploy to indefinitely delay negotiations.

“We do not have any other ability to confront the company since we already have done so based on the law,” he said. “We can merely keep protesting in vain.”

The union has been protesting on and off since April, but has struggled to fund their gatherings as many workers are unable to stay inside the city and are surviving on temporary construction jobs and other day labor in their home provinces. A few share food or stay at Morady’s small home in Phnom Penh

“Everyone has taken other side jobs to survive, so the protest can only take place only on the weekends,” Morady said.

Ath Thorn, president of the Cambodian Labor Confederation, which helped the Giant Ibis employees unionize in 2020, said that the company’s claims of repeatedly miscalculating the severance and seniority payments for laid-off employees was becoming a tired excuse. The problem, he said, was “not hard to solve.”

“The Labour ministry must work to reinforce the law and if a company makes an excuse to avoid settlement, the ministry has the capacity to hold them accountable,” he said. “Otherwise it indicates that the labor law has been diminished.”

Labor Ministry spokesperson Heng Sour did not respond to requests for comment.

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