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Digital Divide staff back on job

Workers gather during a protest in front of the Digital Divide Data office
Workers gather during a protest in front of the Digital Divide Data office in Phnom Penh last week. Chhay Channyda

Digital Divide staff back on job

A week-long strike involving more than 100 work-study participants at Phnom Penh-based NGO Digital Divide Data ended on Sunday following talks conducted by the social enterprise’s CEO, who flew in from New York to attend to the matter, participants and management said yesterday.

Program participants, who work 36 hours a week, began striking last Monday, calling for a $72 monthly wage increase, access to national doctors and the firing of the NGO’s human resources director – whom they claimed was rude.

Work-study participants – disadvantaged youth aged 19 to 26 – are charged with transforming physical documents into searchable archives for a variety of clients.

CEO Jeremy Hockenstein says he made the decision to fly from the US “given the context of Cambodian history” and “recent events”.

After his arrival in the Kingdom on Friday, informal negotiations between DDD and the union members began on Saturday and continued through Sunday evening, when a formal agreement was signed.

“As soon as we sat down together, it was clear that misunderstandings and miscommunication were responsible for most of the problems. Our process was less a negotiation and more a review of concerns and clarification of how we all want things to work at DDD,” Hockenstein explained by email, adding that a significant number of staff had remained at work tending to projects with urgent deadlines last week.

Hockenstein added that the company would be hiring a new person to administer its health program and had set up a committee to review any medical plan-related issues on a monthly basis.

Those moves, and a bump in pay, were enough to satisfy the striking workers, union president An Sinovil said.

“We were very happy to go back to work on Monday,” Sinovil said, adding that work participants’ salary of $88 was raised to $100 and a doctor would be available to employees twice a day for an hour and a half.

DDD management declined to confirm the specific amount of the raise yesterday.

“As part of our agreement on Sunday, we agreed to adjust the compensation package offered to operators, as we had been planning to,” Cynthia Hauck, chief operations manager, said.

ADDITIONAL REPORTING BY CHHAY CHANNYDA

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