Fired Union Leader Says Office Was Looted

The sacked union leader at a Siem Reap luxury hotel has alleged his office was trashed and union documents destroyed Fri­day, the same day that management at the Singapore-based Raf­fles International announced that its long and bitter labor dispute was resolved.

Pat Sambo, who was fired from Grand Hotel d’Angkor last month, said Sunday that he watched as his union office on the hotel’s premises was looted and government documents, establishing his union as the sole representative of the workers, were stolen.

The hotel then brokered an agreement with representatives of staff hand-picked by management, he alleged.

That deal apparently led to news reports from Singapore that the hotel had penned a new collective agreement, ending the long-running service charge dispute.

No such announcement was made locally.

A Grand Hotel d’Angkor em­ployee nominated to a top position in the new “union” called it toothless Sunday.

“The [new] union cannot do anything for the workers,” said Chheang Phalla. He said he was named vice-president of the union last week while on vacation.

Pat Sambo said he filed complaints about the new union and alleged theft from the union office with the Ministry of Social Affairs, union federation president Ly Korm and local police.

Labor law forbids companies from meddling in the formation of unions and stipulates that only majority unions licensed with the Ministry of Social Affairs can legally bargain collective agreements.

Ly Sophea, deputy director of the province’s social affairs office, said Sunday he had scheduled a meeting for today with Pat Sam­bo and hotel management.

Phone calls to management in Siem Reap and Phnom Penh Sun­day went unanswered. Mark­land Blaiklock, head of Raffles Hotels and Resorts, was away from his Singapore office and could not be reached for comment.

The service charge dispute led to a weeklong strike last month at several hotels in Siem Reap and Phnom Penh, including Grand Hotel d’Angkor and its sister Raffles-owned Hotel Le Royal.

Those two hotels fired some 300 workers in the strike’s aftermath, and declined to participate in mediated talks with union leaders.

Workers at the hotels are de­manding that management collect a service charge and give part of it to staff, as stated in the labor law. Raffles management has balked at the request and challenged in court the legality of the strike.

Meanwhile, unions and management at three luxury hotels agreed to delay further action on the service charge issue until the Ministry of Social Affairs issues a formal directive defining if and how it must be collected.

Hotel InterContinental, Hotel Cambodiana and Sofitel Angkor Hotel agreed to allow scores of workers to return to their jobs and asked the Arbitration Council to delay a hearing on the controversial service charge.

However, the Council is scheduled to consider today the case of Sunway Hotel, where management declined to take part in mediation talks.


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