Restaurant Workers Rehired After New Year Leave Dispute

More than a dozen employees fired from a Phnom Penh eatery on Monday after a dispute over pay during the Khmer New Year holiday were rehired on Tuesday following a protest that prompted negotiations with their employer, according to union representatives and Labor Ministry officials.

Sixteen workers from the Xiao Xiao Seafood Restaurant in Daun Penh district said they had taken a week’s holiday for the new year celebrations. When they returned to work on Monday, their boss, Tang Sok Leang, told them they were out of a job, they said.

Employees of the Xiao Xiao Seafood Restaurant protest their dismissal outside the restaurant in Phnom Penh’s Daun Penh district yesterday. The workers were fired for taking a week off over the Khmer New Year holiday but rehired yesterday evening following negotiations mediated by labor officials. (Siv Channa/The Cambodia Daily)
Employees of the Xiao Xiao Seafood Restaurant protest their dismissal outside the restaurant in Phnom Penh’s Daun Penh district yesterday. The workers were fired for taking a week off over the Khmer New Year holiday but rehired yesterday evening following negotiations mediated by labor officials. (Siv Channa/The Cambodia Daily)

The group claims they were unfairly dismissed, as they were entitled to take leave during the national holiday. However, Mr. Sok Leang said he had given them three days off during the Chinese New Year on the proviso they would work through the Khmer New Year.

Yoeun Sarum, 24, who said she worked 84 hours per week at the restaurant, was among the workers who protested outside the premises on Tuesday, claiming that her wages were being withheld and her dismissal was unfair.

“I just wanted to get my salary, then I will go back home,” she said. “Even if they allow us back to work, there might be the same problem as what is happening now.”

Mr. Sok Leang said he had made an explicit agreement with the workers to either work during the Khmer New Year in exchange for a $15 daily bonus or not work and have their wages docked. Though he claimed to have followed the Labor Law, he decided on Tuesday to give the workers their jobs back.

“I decided to take them back because they understand the job,” he said. “If I hire somebody else, I will waste time training them.”

Hun Kimseng, a union leader for the Cambodian Food and Service Workers’ Federation, said he was pleased with Mr. Sok Leang’s decision to rehire the workers and give them four days of monthly paid leave, but that the dispute never should have occurred.

“The working conditions should have been in place before,” he said. “If this restaurant had had them before, this problem might not have happened.”

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