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It Was Stinky for Days, but Cambodia's Garbage Strikers Won Their Battle

Categories: East Asia, Cambodia, Breaking News, Labor, Protest

Trash piled up for three days in Phnom Penh, Cambodia’s capital, as hundreds of garbage collectors went on strike [1] to demand a pay hike and better working conditions. The strike ended [2] on Wednesday, February 5, when workers agreed to a slight pay hike.

More than 400 garbage workers of the Cintri company refused to work last Sunday to protest their monthly salary of 65 US Dollars. They vowed to dance [3] until their demands are met such as a $150 monthly pay, health bonus, and overtime pay during weekends.

Cintri [4], a subsidiary of the Canadian Firm Cintec, signed a 50-year exclusive contract in 2002 to collect Phnom Penh’s trash.

Initially, the management agreed [5] to a slight salary hike:

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.

But workers rejected the package. After several negotiations, and after several days of mounting trash in the city, both parties came to an agreement [6]. Street cleaners will now get $90 per month and truck drivers will receive $130. In addition, a health care center will be funded by the company. The uniform fee charged against employees will be scrapped [7] too.

During the brief garbage strike, Phnom Penh residents complained of stink coming from the uncollected trash in the streets. Below are some reactions on Twitter:

The launching of Cambodia's first public bus was not enthusiastically reported because it coincided with the strike

After the end of the strike, garbage workers started collecting trash in the streets

The garbage strike came right after the government violently dispersed [30] a strike by garment workers who have been demanding a $160 monthly minimum wage. It was feared that the garbage strike will be dispersed as well because of the increasing presence of military and police forces in the city.

*Thumbnail is from @LTO_cambodia [13]