Hotels, Union Deadlocked Over Charge

A last-ditch effort to mediate the ongoing labor dispute at luxury hotels seemingly fell flat Wednesday, with hotel managers and union representatives maintaining polar positions on how much of the service charge is owed to the workers.

Meanwhile Phnom Penh’s Raffles Le Royal joined sister hotel Grand D’Angkor in Siem Reap by sacking nearly 100 workers who participated in the week-long strike earlier this month. Union leaders say the terminations are illegal.

The service charge debate has paralyzed business at some of the seven hotels, where more than 2,000 workers have demanded the service charge be paid to them.

At Grand D’Angkor, a receptionist said the hotel has stopped taking reservations until May 1, and shutters were drawn across the hotel’s windows. Pat Sambo, president of that hotel’s union, estimated that only 50 workers were still working there.

Union workers are demanding that the hotels reinstate the service charge—which amounts to roughly 10 percent of a hotel guest’s bill—and pass on at least 75 percent of the charge to workers. Hotels previously kept revenues from the service charge, then dropped the charge altogether after the government ordered that a portion go to the workers.

On Wednesday the Arbitration Council, the body that hears la­bor disputes, tried to broker the fall-out between workers and the management at Sunway Hotel, Hotel Cambodiana and Hotel InterContinental, but neither side emerged hopeful that a resolution would be reached without a formal hearing. Talks between hotel managers and union leaders began at 1 pm and extended into the night.

“We haven’t changed anything,” said Michel Horn, managing director of Hotel Cambo­diana. “We will not charge the service charge, but we’ll offer a fixed fee.”

Managers are bitter over revenue lost in the run-up to the Khmer New Year, when the workers began their strike under the guidance of Ly Korm, president of the Cambodian Tourism and Service Worker Federation. The strike began on April 5 after the Ministry of Social Affairs failed to bring the two sides to a compromise.

In total, the strike cost the Sunway Hotel some $20,000 in expected revenue, said human resources manager Chuon Var, who accused the union at his hotel of backing out of a prearranged agreement to give half of the service charge to the workers.

“The union president acted irresponsibly. He listened only to [Ly Korm’s] federation,” he said.

Ly Korm said Wednesday he was relinquishing control in this mediation phase to allow union leaders at individual hotels to ne­go­tiate on their own.

Barring 28 workers from re­porting for duty, Sunway is among five hotels that have taken action against workers who took part in the strike.

Grand D’Ang­kor fired 195 work­ers this weekend, and Raffles Le Royal fired 97. In a letter to workers dated April 19, Le Royal issued its termination notices and accused the workers of “causing a serious loss because of their strike.”

According to union leaders, Hotel InterContinental has suspended 180 workers but agreed in principle to allow 160 to return to work. Hotel Cambodiana has suspended two workers. It is unclear whether the suspended workers will be paid for their time off duty, or whether they will receive severance pay.

Phnom Penh Municipal Court will re-enter the fray today when it hears Raffles Le Royal’s case appealing an earlier Arbitration Council decision that ordered the hotel to pay service charge revenue in full to the workers. No date has been set for the Grand D’Angkor’s hearing in Siem Reap provincial court.

Disputes at Sofitel Angkor Hotel and the Pan Sea Hotel, both in Siem Reap, have subsided, as management waits for the Arbitration Council to make a decision on the service charge.

(Additional reporting by Solana Pyne)

 

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