Talks Fail to End Protests at Siem Reap Hotel

More than 50 staff members of Siem Reap’s Victoria Angkor Resort and Spa on Tuesday joined recently dismissed employees to protest against the hotel’s management following a breakdown in negotiations.

Protests outside the hotel entered a second week as discussions between hotel management, the provincial labor department and the Cambodian Tourism and Service Workers Federation (CTSWF) broke down on Monday after managers refused to allow 17 recently dismissed employees back to work.

In September, two employees —who were also CTSWF representatives—were dismissed after collecting over 168 thumbprints from co-workers in a petition against the hotel’s management for alleged labor abuses.

“The employees demanded the managers be fired because they did not respect employees and regularly had disputes with them,” said Morm Rithy, CTSWF president.

Mr. Rithy added that the following month a further 15 employees who had close ties with the union were dismissed in suspicious circumstances.

“I think they were fired because they are union members, activists, friends or close to the union leaders, or based on what they wrote about the management on Facebook,” said Mr. Rithy. “But the management claimed they had completed their contracts.”

Employees were critical of Ronan Bianchi, the general manager, and Victor Brossollet, the executive director, who were recent additions to the hotel after it underwent a change in management last summer.

“These French men accused us of being mafia. I have been working here for nearly 10 years,” said Chan Socheat, 35, who was one of the employees fired in October and now acts as a representative for the protesters. “We only had trouble after those guys arrived.”

Ms. Socheat said the protesters demanded that the new managers be sacked, the 17 fired employees reinstated and that discrimination against union membership ended.

“I just want my job back and we will not stop protesting until we can find the real resolution,” she said.

Pheng Chhengly, chief of the labor office at the provincial Labor Department, who led the negotiations, was worried about the impact the protests may have on Siem Reap’s tourism sector.

“We are extremely concerned over the dispute because it affects the economy of the province, which depends on the tourism sector,” Mr. Chhengly said.

“We are asking the union to delay protests until January 10 to allow us to prepare for celebrations for January 7 day,” he said. “We encourage both sides to continue negotiations during these days, but no one will listen to us.”

Chan Sareth, human resources manager at the hotel, could not be reached for comment.

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