​​​​​​​The Ministry of Labour Warns a Union Leader to Stay out of the Cintri Labor Conflict

Garbage collection is on hold in Phnom Penh as employees of Cintri (Cambodia) Ltd remain on strike. Photo: Khorn Champa.
  • Phoung Vantha, Lay Sopheavatey
  • October 9, 2020 7:48 AM

CTWUF Union President Touch Kosal responds he only served as mediator to help resolve the conflict

PHNOM PENH--A union leader has been warned by the Ministry of Labour and Vocational Training to stop any involvement in the conflict between Cintri (Cambodia) Ltd and its employees currently on strike.

Chrun Theravong, director of the ministry’s Department of Labour Dispute, on Oct. 7 wrote to Touch Kosal, president of the Cambodia Tourism Workers' Union Federation (CTWUF), warning him to immediately stop inciting workers to commit actions that are in violation of federal regulations and lead to illegal strikes.

"[B]ased on the actions that you committed at Cintri, it was an illegal act as stated in Article 65 of the Law on Trade Unions and Article 83 of the Labor Law," Theravong said in his letter.

If Kosal does not stop the law violations described in the letter, the ministry will dissolve his union and take further legal action, Theravong added.

Kosal rejected the Department of Labour Dispute’s accusations as baseless and amounting to injustice. "I was not behind the strike and did not incite the Cintri workers to strike," he said. "I just joined in as mediator to try reconcile both parties [so they discuss] together if possible."

Kosal added that three unions were involved in the negotiations that concluded on Oct. 7 with the conflict being resolved. 

Around 2,000 Cintri employees went on strike earlier this month, requesting to have their benefits—seniority pay, compensatory damages and so on—paid by the company whose garbage-collection contract with Phnom Penh is being terminated and a new one may not be obtained.   

The Phnom Penh authorities are looking into dividing the city into three sections with a different company in charge of garbage collection in each section rather than having only one company for the whole city as has been the case with Cintri. 

On Oct. 7, worker representatives met with Governor of Phnom Penh Khoung Sreng and Cintri representatives. The company had agreed to accede to the workers’ demands, promising to settle the termination of employee contracts in accordance with the Labor Law and with all the benefits due. Phnom Penh’s City Hall agreed to act as a guarantor.

However on Oct. 8, workers resumed their strike, prompting City Hall to issue a statement expressing regrets that some Cintri workers had rejected the terms of the agreements made on Oct. 7.

Kao Savat, Cintri employees’ union president, on Oct. 8 said that the workers had decided to continue their protest because they fear losing their benefits if Cintri does not obtain one of the three contracts. He added that union representatives may have the opportunity to meet with Governor Khuon Sreng to find a solution.

Regarding the letter sent to Chrun Theravong by the Department of Labour Dispute, Khun Tharo,  program manager at the Center for Alliance of Labor and Human Rights (CENTRAL), on Oct. 9 said that the ministry's warning seemed to threaten the basic rights of professional organizations and unions.

"I see that the accusation…was injustice as that [Cambodia Tourism Workers' Union Federation] works with professionals, respects the law, its members who abide by its statutes that have been kept at the Ministry of Labor," he said.

Tharo urged the Ministry of Labor to investigate before issuing such letter and to look into all aspects of the situation to clarify matters.

In the meantime, City Hall has called on Phom Penh residents to properly pack their garbage and cooperate with the local authorities while Cintri employees remain on strike and garbage is not being picked up as usual. 

The Phnom Penh authorities have been using a few  of its trucks and workers to collect some of the garbage that has been accumulating in the city.

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