Cambodian Journalists Alliance Association

Cintri employees hesitant to return to work

Phnom Penh Governor Khuong Sreng speaks to Cintri workers after presiding over a meeting on October 7 to discuss their possible return to work. Panha Chhorpoan

Employees of trash collection company Cintri were hesitant to return to work after it was decided in an October 7 meeting between company management, workers, and government representatives that the employees would only receive benefits if they were fired.

Mey Phan, a secretary representing Cintri workers with the Cambodian Tourism and Service Workers Federation said the municipal government and the company had agreed to meet the demands of the Cintri workers only if they were fired from their job at the company.

“The solution is good but workers want the company to meet all five of their demands,” Phan said, adding that he did not know whether all of the workers would agree to return to work or not.

According to minutes from the meeting between Cintri workers and management, and officials from City Hall and the Labor and Environment ministries, the company said it would follow the Labor Law in responding to workers’ demands. The Cintri employees have been on strike for six days, calling for seniority indemnity pay, compensation pay, final salary, remaining annual leave pay, and notice pay should their employer lose its exclusive contract to garbage collection in Phnom Penh. 

“For the work of workers/employees in the future, the Phnom Penh administration guarantees the workers will not lose benefits even if Cintri does not win the auction,” the minutes said. “Please, workers/employees return to work normally on the evening of October 7, 2020.”

The strike by Cintri’s more than 2,000 workers over the possibility that the company’s contract will not be renewed has caused waste to pile up in the streets of the capital.

Garbage is seen piled up on a street in Prampi Makara district in Phnom Penh on October 7. Panha Chhorpoan

The strike comes after Cintri workers saw a notice from City Hall circulating online saying new firms would be awarded the contract to clear rubbish in the capital, leaving workers concerned that Cintri would shut down without paying their benefits and final salary.

City Hall is due to award a new contract to clear the capital’s trash on October 16. Municipality spokesman Met Measpheakdey said on October 6 that the municipal government would select three other companies that will share collection services in Phnom Penh, he said. 

Cintri worker Um Vanny, 32, said that most employees would not return to work because they wanted the company to meet all five of their demands even if some of the workers were hired on at the new companies that are contracted to collect waste in Phnom Penh.

“Most workers will continue to strike because we want the company to meet all five points of our benefits,” Vanny said.

Phnom Penh Governor Khuong Sreng, who presided over the October 7 meeting, said that employees had been on strike for several days because they were worried that they would lose their jobs when the government awarded new contracts later this month.

“I am pleased to confirm that your benefits will be kept and will be provided to you based on the law as permitted by Labor Ministry,” Sreng told workers outside Cintri’s garbage truck repair garage in Dangkao district. “So please, all brothers and sisters, do not worry about losing your benefits.”

Sreng said he had personally signed a letter guaranteeing the benefits. 

He added that later this month, the municipality will auction the city’s trash collection to three companies and that the more than 2,000 office and staff workers at Cintri would be redistributed within these companies. 

“I provided the resolution for brothers and sisters already, but I request all brothers and sisters, this evening please … continue to work again,” he said, even promising that workers would be paid for the days they were on strike.

Ou Ratana, deputy secretary-general of the Committee for the Resolution of Strikes and Demonstrations at the Labor Ministry, said employers would fulfil workers’ benefits according to the law if their contracts had been terminated.

He noted that if any workers lost their jobs at Cintri, Sreng would be responsible for redistributing them to the new trash collection firms.

“If their contract ends, it is the same as if they had resigned on their own, so they will not receive any [extra] money,” Ratana said, explaining that workers cannot receive benefits unless they are terminated by the company.

Van Yat, 23, a driver for Cintri, said he would follow the other employees as they decide whether or not to return to work.

“According to my opinion, I want the company to resolve our demands first before the new companies will start garbage collection,” he said.

A 40-year-old street food vendor in Phnom Penh’s Chamkar Mon district said that while Cintri workers had been on strike, the streets in her neighborhood had filled with rotten trash and had kept people away from her business.

“I hired a man to take my garbage away because it became foul-smelling and affected the number of people who come to buy my rice and food,” she said. “If I did not do this, it would hurt my business.”

Touch Kosal, president of the Cambodia Tourism Workers’ Union Federation, said that it was up to the Cintri employees whether they would return to work, and that some had accepted Sreng’s offer to return to work in the evening.

“In fact, I respect their decision. Therefore, if they want to continue to strike, it’s their right because I do not have the right to ban them from returning to work. I am just explaining it to them based on the law,” he said.

“Based on what I heard, there could be some workers going out to collect the garbage [this evening] and some who do not go out to collect,” Kosal said. 

Cintri Chairman Seng Savy and City Hall spokesman Met Measpheakdey could not be reached for comment.

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