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May 12, 2014

Gas Station Workers Join Cambodian Wage Strikes

by Theara Khoun

Hundreds of staff members from the Caltex fuel company have gone on strike in Cambodia, joining a larger labor movement pressing for higher wages.

Employees say they are protesting in front of Caltex gas stations to join with garment factory workers seeking a doubling of the national minimum wage to $160 per month.

Employees say they make between $110 and $130 a month at Caltex, a brand under the U.S.-based Chevron Corporation.

A Caltex cashier, Maon Sineth, said in an interview with VOA's Khmer service that pay has not kept up with the rising cost of living.

“I receive a salary of $130 a month," said Sineth. "I have been working for more than 10 years and received only $5 raise.  New employees and senior ones receive the same salary.  Food prices have increased.  How can we live on $110?  And what about those who have children?”

Chan Lek, a spokesman for Caltex, declined to comment Monday.

The Caltex workers add their number to ongoing protests by garment factory unions.

A leader for the Federation of Food and Service Workers Union, Sor Mora, said negotiations with the company failed, leading to the strike.

“The workers' demand is rightful.  This is an internal standard company that should be leading in paying decent salary and having better working conditions for its workers.  They should not have underpaid their employees in ensuring their decent living," said Mora.

Labor protests were marked by violence earlier this year.  In January, security forces killed least four people and wounded dozens more during a rally by garment workers in Phnom Penh.  A court is currently trying 23 labor activists who were arrested during the violence.

This report was produced in collaboration with the VOA Khmer service.