09/30/2010

www.gupta-verlag.de/rubber

CAMBODIA: Rubber firm agrees to back pay after protests

Ethnic Phnong workers employed by a Franco-Cambodian rubber company in Mondulkiri province said that the company began paying workers an agreed day wage, a day after 2,000 villagers protested, saying they had been short-changed.

Seoun Sentra, 16, who joined Monday's (27 Sept. 2010) protest outside the Socfin KCD rubber firm in Pechreada district's Bousraa commune, said that a company representative had met with the protesters late that evening and agreed to uphold promises to pay new employees a day wage of about 15,000 riels (US$3.57), while more experienced employees would receive 20,000 ($4.76).

Employees began receiving back wages owed to them on 28 Sept., she said.

She said the company had agreed to pick employees up for work at 6am instead of 4am, and stop marking workers absent on days when they commuted on their own.

During Monday's protest, about 2,000 workers complained that although the work day normally started at 7am, the company's trucks arrived to pick them up at 4am.

Any worker who did not board the trucks was listed as absent, and not paid, even if they travelled to work of their own accord. Workers said that their weekly wages had dropped from 75,000 to 100,000 riels per week to between 30,000 and 40,000 as a result.

Worker Ho Vaneth, 41, said that the company had an obligation to pay the agreed-upon wage. "During one day, the company will order us to clear trees or bamboo from about 2 hectares of land, so that rubber trees can be planted,” she said.

Socfin KCD, which is a joint venture between French rubber giant Socfin and the Khaou Chuly Group, was granted its first 2,500-hectare rubber concession in late 2007 and began clearing land in early 2008.

The plantation, which is now expected to cover 10,000 hectares, has long been opposed by local residents, who say that more than 800 families have been displaced in Bousraa commune.

In April 2009, Philippe Monnin, general manager of Socfin KCD, said that Phnong workers employed by the plantation would receive a wage of 20,000 riels per day. Khaou Phallaboth, president of Khaou Chuly Group, said 28 Sept. 2010 that the resumption of work was beneficial for both parties.

"Villagers need jobs, the company needs workers, and … working for our rubber plantation is a long-term job,” he said.


(Syed Rashid Ali, Karachi, Pakistan)

www.gupta-verlag.de/rubber