We’ve been seeing a bit more of the city lately.
Specifically, we are seeing the contents of locals’ rubbish bins, piled waist-high, uncollected on the street.
Rubbish workers are on strike.
Drivers and trash collectors from the company CINTRI, Phnom Penh’s monopoly rubbish-collection contractor, are demanding pay rises.
Trash collectors receive US$105 to $120 per month for up to 10-hour days. They are now demanding $150. This handsome figure, of $5 per day, would be nearly twice Cambodia’s GDP per capita ($2.80ish/day), but still below the Government’s assessment of basic living costs- calculated at $177. Rubbish truck drivers seek $250, plus the privilege of siphoning and selling petrol from company trucks after hours, which was previously allowed.
The workers’ tactics have not gone unnoticed. After four days of the strike, anyone with a sense of smell is painfully aware of the role that rubbish collectors play. A City Hall official accused them of using waste “as a tool to kidnap the people of our city”. The tool is an effective one: while negotiations persist, trash rots in the sun.
Their strategy has paid off. Today the workers and company reached an agreement. According to reports, trash collectors’ wages will rise to $125-140 per month and drivers’ wages to $180… but they’re still not allowed to siphon petrol.
You win some you lose some.