Heng Pov Steps Into Hotel Strike

Deputy Municipal Police Chief Heng Pov invited Raffles Hotel Le Royal workers and managers to Phnom Penh City Hall on Thurs­day to referee a labor dispute that has crumbled into a holiday strike.

Raffles Grand Hotel D’Angkor Employees Union members in Siem Reap and Phnom Penh stopped working this week to demand fair pay.

Tourism and Service Workers Federation President Ly Korm said Heng Pov called him late Wednesday night offering to help resolve the conflict, which cast a shadow over Hotel Le Royal’s Christmas activities Wednesday and Thursday.

“The workers recognize [Heng Pov] is a good man to compromise,” Ly Korm said. “He pro­mised the staff he will talk with the owner.”

This is the first time a high-ranking police official has intervened in a labor dispute, said Legal Aid of Cambodia lawyer Lean Chinda, who joined the negotiations on Thursday.

Representatives from the hotel, union and the Ministry of Social Affairs and Labor also were present at the Municipality, Lean Chinda said.

Heng Pov confirmed he attended the meeting but declined further comment.

Hotel Le Royal General Man­ager Stephan Gnaegi also de­clined to comment on the deputy police chief’s mediation of the talks.

The Raffles unions in both locations are demanding to receive money from a 10 percent charge attached to bills for services rendered.

The Cambodian labor law states that service charges shall be divided among all employees who service customers. It is against the law for managers to withhold the service charge.

Gnaegi has said workers receive the service charge, but he did not specify how they are paid.

“The management of Raffles Hotel Le Royal has been negotiating in good faith with the union on the Collective Bargaining Agreement for the past few months,” Gnaegi wrote in a statement late Wednesday.

“These outstanding matters under discussion with the union are typical in the hotel industry in Cambodia and are not peculiar to Raffles Hotel Le Royal,” he said.

Raffles Grand manager Clar­ence Tan said Thursday that Raffles Grand workers receive more than the 10 percent charge. He did not explain how much, or in what form, the bonus comes in.

The hotels now are proposing to eliminate the standard service charge and to encourage guests to independently give tips.

In Siem Reap on Thursday, Raffles Grand Hotel D’Angkor union members returned to work, though the dispute remains unresolved.

“If we continue striking, it will hurt the hotel. There will be no solution for both sides,” said Sar Sereyvuth, president of the Siem Reap hotel union.

He said he is optimistic that an Arbitration Council hearing, scheduled in Phnom Penh today, will produce a solution satisfactory to all parties.

Sar Sereyvuth has accused the hotel of intimidation and unfair bargaining tactics. He alleged on Tuesday that the hotel paid Siem Reap provincial police to pressure union members into not striking. On Wednesday, Sar Sereyvuth said the hotel hired replacements for the striking workers, which is against the law.

Tan denied that the hotel hired substitute employees. He said students from a Siem Reap hotel school had been invited to work voluntarily.

“They are here on a two-week training program, like an internship. They are kids. We are training the kids,” he said. The training began Wednesday, the first day of the strike. It is due to end Jan 4, Tan said, adding that the internship was scheduled long before the strike began.

Hotel Le Royal union members plan to continue their strike today in Phnom Penh, Ly Korm said. (Additional reporting by Yun Samean)

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