Raffles,Union Agree to End Labor Dispute

Raffles Hotel Le Royal in Phnom Penh and Grand Hotel d’Angkor in Siem Reap will rehire the majority of staff fired after participating in a strike, ending a five-month lockout that spotlighted the hotels’ labor practices and tested the fledgling service workers’ unions.

Management at the two Raffles hotels will reinstate 176 of more than 300 employees laid off from the two luxury hotels after a week­long strike in April, according to a written agreement signed with union leaders and hotel management. The resolution, reached Sun­­day night at a meeting be­tween the parties, leaves the contentious service charge issue to the gov­ern­ment’s consideration. That falls far short of initial union de­mands that the hotels collect the charge for distribution to staff and, later, that all of the fired workers be allowed to return to work.

More than 125 fired staff will not return to their jobs. They will receive severance pay and their full salaries from April 1 to Sunday’s breakthrough, barring the seven days of the strike.

Employees selected to return to work at the Raffles hotels will get 75 percent of their salaries for the entire lockout period.

In return, the unions, which in past months have spurred international union federations to protest at Raffles hotels in London and Australia, said they will withdraw their cry for a boycott of the giant Singapore-based chain.

“I am very happy to be going back to work, because without a job it has been difficult,” said Sao Van Thien, who heads the Le Royal union, on Monday.

“I think when we go back to work, we can establish good relations with the hotel,” he said.

The dispute reached a climax April 5 when some 300 Raffles employees, along with staff at other luxury hotels, went on strike to demand that the hotels collect a service charge on customers’ bills and distribute it to staff.

Workers picketed outside the hotels’ entrances for a week without any reported violence, but court orders calling the strikes illegal paved the way for management to summarily fire staff. Ninety-seven workers were fired from Le Royal. Grand Hotel D’Angkor sacked 209.

Both hotels were later accused of wrongfully firing the workers in separate hearings at the Arbitration Council, which ordered them to reinstate about 85 percent of the employees.

As permitted by law, the hotels rejected the Council’s orders and have since bargained with the unions over who and how many of the sacked employees will be rehired.

Ly Korm, head of the Cambodian Tourism and Service Workers’ Federation, said the hotels’ final offer to take back 60 percent of fired staff was acceptable only because many employees had found other work since April.

Those union members “agreed to accept the severance pay,” said Ly Korm. “We are very happy to reach an agreement.”

Stephan Gnaegi and Riaz Mahmood, the managers of Le Royal and Grand Hotel d’Angkor, traveled to Singapore on Monday and could not be reached for comment.

The agreement does not specify when the selected employees will return to work, but allows the hotels to assign them different posts with their previous wages.

Both sides agreed to drop negotiations regarding the service charge until the Ministry of Labor issues a directive on the issue.


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