Beer Promoters Seek Higher Wagers, Respect

Beer promoters are hoping a new documentary chronicling the conditions they face in the workplace will pressure beer companies to increase their wages and reduce harassment from customers.

The documentary, launched yesterday at a meeting with members of the Cambodian Food and Service Workers Federation (CFSWF), depicts the struggles beer promoters face through the stories of six different women.

“Currently, the wages cannot guarantee my livelihood, so I request companies to pay wages that ensure a decent living,” says beer promoter Kong Sophal in the film.

“Clients sexually harass me. They touch my body and say immoral things to me,” she added.

According to CFSWF president Sar Mora, the five breweries in Cambodia pay between $50 and $70 a month plus commission, which is why many of the promoters please customers even if they are abusive or engage in prostitution.

In 2009, the Beer Selling Industry of Cambodia, a coalition of breweries, created an initiative to give beer promoters signs saying they are prohibited from drinking. Though the signs have helped the women refuse to drink, they have not solved the root of the problem, Mr. Mora said.

“Many women don’t use them because they need to please the customers by sitting and drinking with them to sell more beer. The main problem is the low salary, so it doesn’t solve that problem. That is why we are asking companies to pay them a living wage.” Mr. Mora said he hopes the video exposes the voices of the women, who are primarily from rural areas and cannot read or write.

Undersecretary of state for the Ministry of Women’s Affairs Hor Malin said at the meeting that she will suggest the documentary be shown at training workshops for restaurant owners and police, but that it is the Ministry of Labor’s responsibility to inspect working conditions at places beer is sold.

“We want to pressure the big companies. They make hundreds of millions of dollars, and can afford to pay the workers more,” Mr. Mora said. “They should show responsibility toward the problems of their workers, who play a crucial role in assisting to make profits.”

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