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Cambodia: Tensions between locals and migrant Chinese workers hinder collective labour action

"Cambodian and Chinese construction workers equal victims of the pandemic slowdown", 22 March 2021

[...] Typically, local construction workers are paid US$8 to US$15 per day while Chinese workers can earn several hundred dollars per month. Some Cambodian workers resent the higher salaries of Chinese workers but Sana said nowadays everyone in the industry needs to fight constantly just to get paid, regardless of nationality. [...]

Construction workers in Cambodia have long struggled to gain salaries from the network of subcontractors that manage the industry, but the pandemic-driven slowdown of construction, particularly foreign-invested projects, has made workers’ journey to payday even more difficult. [...]

The latest Covid-19 outbreak in Phnom Penh, which began in February 2021 after four still-contagious Chinese nationals left quarantine, has made the situation worse. Jing explained it had become a “huge problem” for other Chinese nationals. He has warned his colleagues and employees not to go out alone, especially at night, in order to avoid problems with locals. “We all have families back home, so safety is the number one priority for us,” he said.

There are undoubtedly serious tensions and misunderstandings between local and Chinese workers that hinder solidarity and effective collective action. Many of these problems are directly related to the way the construction industry uses numerous different sub-contractors for each project. [...]