PHNOM PENH (Khmer Times) – Employees of Cintri, the city’s sole garbage collection agency, are feeling the effects of their job as they go about keeping the capital clean.
Skin rashes and respiratory problems are commonplace complaints, as is the low standard of living that comes with being a city trash collector. Those who spoke to Khmer Times, however, said there is an upside to their job, and it has all to do with playing their part to keep the capital clean.
Chhim Sambo, a 52-year-old rubbish collector in Chamkarmon district, often suffers from breathing difficulties and other respiratory ailments.
“The company gives me a weekday off for treatment”, said Ms. Sambo, who has been with Cintri Cambodia for seven years. “But if I have serious illnesses, the company gives me a month off and my salary is still paid.”
Her monthly salary of $125 does not cover the cost of living, she said, adding that her main expenses were rent, food and the cost of keeping her children in school.
“I worry so much about my health because the company does not provide any boots, gloves or other equipment to protect against illnesses,” she said. “It is also a big problem when my family has a serious illness as I don’t have any money to support them.”
Ms. Sambo says she continues to work with Cintri because she “doesn’t have any choice, and I am poor, so I have to work to support my family.”
“But I am very happy to clean my city despite the low salary and the many problems I face,” she added.
Former soldier Ngin Vannak, 54, has been working with Cintri for nine years, earning about $100 a month collecting rubbish from the Boeung Trabek market. He constantly suffers from fever and the flu, but perseveres with his job.
“I am so happy with my job cleaning up the city,” he said. “I am too old and I have no choice, but I think of my job as helping society.”
Mr. Vannak worries about his health while on the job, but needs the money to keep his children in school. “We can get various illnesses at any time because of our work,” he said, adding that he also has to deal with the smell and dust.
Khiev Lin, 36, from Prey Veng province, said he falls sick every time he collects rubbish in the city as residents do not properly pack their trash. He also sustains cuts and bruises picking up glass and metal pieces, but says Cintri does provide medication.
“I get $125 per month but this salary cannot support my family”, said Mr. Lin, who has been with Cintri for six years.
“I am happy with this job, even though it causes me health problems.”
Mr. Lin called on all city residents to stow their rubbish in a proper manner to make his job easier and safeguard his health. He also requested Cintri to provide employees with boots, gloves and masks.
Ngin Veasna, a deputy with Cintri in Chamkarmon district, told Khmer Times that the company already does. It provides healthcare services and protective clothing to employees, he said.
“Trash collectors commonly face respiratory illnesses, itchiness and hand and leg injuries from pieces of glass and metals,” the Cintri deputy said. “The company provides masks, boots and gloves to protect employees, but some just don’t like to use them.”
Executives at Cintri’s headquarters declined to answer questions by telephone from Khmer Times. Questions would have to be sent by mail, explained one executive who declined to be named. He also said it was impossible for them to answer questions by email because no one at the office had an email address.