Hotel Says Dispute Settled, Workers Disagree

Following the lead of its sister hotel in Siem Reap, the Raffles-owned Hotel Le Royal in Phnom Penh said Sunday that it had resolved a long, bitter labor dispute over the collection of a service charge, though unionized workers recently fired from the hotel cried foul.

Stephan Gnaegi, manager of Hotel Le Royal, said by telephone that management reached a year-long agreement with an elected employees’ committee, which has replaced the hotel’s former union as its bargaining partner. The new agreement addresses the service charge issue, Gnaegi said, but would not detail how it was resolved.

A similar agreement was reached with a workers’ committee at Grand Hotel d’Angkor earlier this month, outraging labor advocates who said the hotel was in violation of the labor law.

Leaders of the Le Royal union echoed those grievances Sunday, alleging that Le Royal had in­stalled “fake unions” to work out an agreement, even as authorities consider the legality of the hotel’s firing of 190 former employees after a strike last month.

“This is illegal. The hotel has abused the labor law,” said Sao Van Thein, head of Le Royal’s union.

Despite such complaints, the agreements at both Raffles hotels are within the law and have the support of the Ministry of Social Affairs, said Im Khemara, deputy director of the labor inspection department. He refused to say if new unions at the hotels were registered with the ministry.

The labor law requires that employers bargain with majority unions or, in such a union’s ab­sence, elected workers’ representatives.

The agreement comes as the Arbitration Council—the body that makes judgments on labor disputes—considers today the legality of Le Royal’s dismissals. The judgment will be non-binding.

No date has been set for a separate complaint in Phnom Penh Municipal Court regarding the hotels’ dismissals, which came after a court injunction in April ordering workers to return to work within 48 hours.

The union has demanded that Le Royal collect a service charge on guests’ bills and disburse it directly to workers. The hotel claims that workers already receive generous wages and benefits. The dispute ignited strikes at six other hotels in Siem Reap and Phnom Penh.

Gnaegi said that management will consider rehiring former employees who were “convinced or forced” to strike last month.

 

 

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