With the government placing tourism at the center of efforts to diversify and grow the country’s economy, a French development organization launched a project on Tuesday to encourage companies operating in the sector to comply with labor laws.
The Worker Sabay project, developed by ACTED—formerly known as the Agency for Technical Cooperation and Development—is a joint effort with the Ministry of Tourism and the Union of Youth Federation of Cambodia (UYFC).
“The aim of the scheme is to enhance the reputation and business practices of the hospitality industry and promote labor law compliance,” said Ginny Haythornthwaite, country director for ACTED.
Companies in the tourism sector that volunteer to take part in the project will be trained to bring their operations into compliance with the project’s code of conduct, which mirrors Cambodia’s labor law.
“[The] code of conduct covers eight core workplace principles, including anti-discrimination, benefits in terms of the number of working hours, payment of overtime, sick leave, annual leave, etc.,” Ms. Haythornthwaite said.
After a business has shown compliance, it will receive a certificate that it can then advertise to tourists.
“Employees will have improved working conditions while employers will ultimately benefit from productivity of their staff—it will be a win-win situation,” said Khut Chandara, vice president of UYFC.
Sar Mora, president of the Cambodia Food and Service Workers Federation, said that workers in the tourism industry regularly faced exploitative conditions.
“Many of the workers are working long hours, 10 to 12 hours, and they don’t have a day off,” Mr. Mora said.
However, William Conklin, country director of the Solidarity Center, a U.S.-based labor rights group, said that the project could not replace genuine worker-led efforts to hold employers to account.
“You certainly can’t say that a workplace that has a voluntary scheme will be a substitute for a union or even [a] substitute for laws,” he said. “The bottom line is that laws have to be enforced.”