Royal Won’t Rehire Fired Employees

Raffles-owned Hotel Le Royal rejected an order Monday to take back workers fired in April after going on strike, as unions here and abroad planned an international publicity campaign against the mammoth chain of luxury hotels.

An Arbitration Council ruling on June 8 ordered Le Royal to take back 97 fired workers, pay for their time off and stop negotiating with a hand-picked group of workers’ representatives.

As permitted by law, hotel manager Stephan Gnaegi filed an opposition to the council’s ruling Monday, legally nullifying it.

He wrote in a letter to the council that its order is “biased in favor of the worker and further the findings of the Arbitration Coun­cil…are not clear, are not correct in fact and are only based on the claims of the workers.

“The illegal strike of the union caused the company a loss in terms of finances and goodwill and dignity…. For these reasons our party requires a settlement based on a just resolution of the independent judicial institutions and we will not allow for people who have caused us damage to escape from their responsibilities,” he wrote.

The hotel has come under fire for its handling of unions’ demands that it collect and disburse a service charge, culminating in last week’s Arbitration Council decision that management employed a union-busting strategy by firing strikers and negotiating with the newly-appointed workers’ representatives.

The hotel maintains the workers went on strike illegally and did not comply with a court order to return to work within 48 hours.

With the council’s decision rejected, fired workers are turning to the court of public opinion to appeal for their jobs, union leaders and labor advocates said Monday.

A protest is planned for later this week, and workers in the tourism and service industries will distribute thousands of leaflets calling for a boycott of Le Royal and its sister hotel, Grand Hotel d’Angkor in Siem Reap, said Sao Van Thein, president of Le Royal’s union.

Grand Hotel d’Angkor fired some 200 workers after the April strike. Its case is currently being considered by the council.

Meanwhile, international unions based in the US, Australia and Europe are contributing money to the workers’ cause, calling for protests and urging media organizations to pick up the story, said Alonzo Suson, who is advising the union as country representative of the American Center for International Labor Solidarity.

He described the Singapore-based Raffles chain’s approach to the dispute as “arrogant.”

“The issue is, can a four-star hotel in Phnom Penh ignore the system put in place, not only by the government, but by employers as well?” Suson said, referring to the council.

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