Luxury hotels that fired or suspended employees who went on strike this month must allow them to return to work and pay their lost wages, the Arbitration Council announced Thursday.
Hotels “must allow the employees to go back to work by April 23 and must offer the workers’ wages from April 13 to 22,” the Council ordered in a statement.
The order is not binding, and it was unclear on Thursday whether the hotels will allow the workers back today.
Tek Ket, president of the Phnom Penh Hotel Association, refused comment on what action the hotels might take.
The Council’s order was met with applause from 2,000 workers who have taken strike action to demand a portion of hotel service charges, including some 195 workers fired this week from Grand Hotel d’Angkor in Siem Reap and 97 others sacked from Raffles Le Royal in the capital.
Pat Sambo, head of striking union workers at Grand Hotel d’Angkor, said they will try to return to work today and make formal complaints if they are rebuffed by management.
The dispute over the hotel’s service charge, which normally amounts to about 10 percent of a guest’s bill, led to a weeklong strike earlier this month at the country’s top seven luxury hotels and opened a widening chasm between hotel managers and unionized workers.
Hotels collected the service charge as revenue, until the government ordered that the money go to the workers, as stipulated in the labor law. Many hotels subsequently dropped the charge from their bills rather than pay their workers.
Workers have for several years demanded a portion of the charge, while management at many hotels has instead offered a flat fee. The most recent strike began in the run-up to the Khmer New Year holidays, after the Ministry of Social Affairs failed to reconcile the two sides.
The Council announced its ruling after concluding mediation efforts that began Wednesday. But Council did not rule on the service charge Thursday and said it would not begin a formal hearing on that issue until requested to do so by the Ministry of Social Affairs.
Both Grand Hotel d’Angkor and Le Royal have bitterly fought a previous Council ruling that the hotels collect a service charge and give all of the money to workers. The hotels have appealed to provincial and municipal courts to reverse that order.
A hearing on Le Royal’s complaint scheduled for Thursday was postponed as the court waits for the results of Council mediation, said municipal judge Kim Sophorn.
No date has been set for Grand Hotel d’Angkor’s hearing in Siem Reap Provincial Court. Workers also went on strike at Hotel Cambodiana, Hotel InterContinental, Sunway Hotel and the Sofitel Royal Angkor Hotel and Pansea Hotel in Siem Reap.