Workers at 7 Hotels Plan Friday Strike

Hundreds of workers at seven luxury hotels in Phnom Penh and Siem Reap province have threatened to strike on Friday if the Ministry of Social Affairs does not ensure they receive service charges from hotel management, a union representing the workers warned Monday.

Workers are threatening to strike at the Hotel Cambodiana, Raffles Le Royal Hotel, Raffles Grand D’Angkor Hotel, Hotel Inter-Continental, Sunway Hotel, Sofitel Royal Angkor and Pansea Angkor, said Ly Korm, president of the Cambodian Tourism and Service Workers Federation, on Monday.

“We will hold the strike if there is no solution,” Ly Korm said.

In a letter sent last week to Mini­ster of Social Affairs Ith Sam Heng, Ly Korm alleged that the seven hotels have not distributed service charges to their employees as required by the labor law, despite having added the charges to their customers’ bills for years.

Ly Korm claimed that all seven hotels stopped collecting the service charge from customers Feb 1.

Hotels usually collect a 10 percent service charge, which must be fully divided among their employees, Ly Korm said. Workers can receive up to $98 in addition to their regular average wages of $35 a month, he said.

“Some hotels have charged the service charge between five to 13 years, but when the workers ask for the money from the service charge, they cheated [and said] they didn’t collect,” Ly Korm said. “I don’t know why they don’t respect the law.”

The Cambodian Tourism and Service Workers Federation represents about 3,000 members, including hotel workers, resort and airline employees, he said.

The dispute over service charges led to a Christmas Eve and Christmas Day strike at the Grand Hotel d’Angkor in Siem Reap province and Le Royal Hotel in Phnom Penh.

Following the strike, the Arbitration Council, which hears collectively bargained labor disputes, ruled that the hotels must distribute all collected service charges to its employees. In August 2003, the Arbitration Council also made a similar ruling involving the Hotel Cambodiana.

Management at Hotel Inter-Continental and the Hotel Cambodiana declined to comment, while general managers at Le Royal Hotel and Pansea Angkor did not return calls on Mon­day.

Franz Weber, the director of operations for Sunway Hotel, which employs about 170 workers, said he was surprised by the union’s threat to strike.

“We are definitely following the law,” he said on Monday. “We are on good terms with our unions.”

Weber said he did not know the details about the dispute over his hotel’s service charges.

But, he warned, a strike at Cambodia’s top hotels “would be very damaging to nearly the whole country.”

Phnom Penh Hotel Association President Tek Ket said on Mon­day there are no specific measures in the labor law to require hotels to collect service charges from their customers.

“There is no law to regulate the hotels to charge the service charge,” he said.

Tek Ket said the hotels decided to stop collecting service charges to satisfy their customers and boost business.

“If there is no service charge, the customers will be happy. This will help the business grow,” he said.

According to the labor law, however, hotels are obligated to collect the charge, said An Nan, a legal supervisor for the Cambodia Labor Organization, an organization that gives legal advice to unions.

Under article 134 of the labor law, a “service charge must be collected and shared” among the workers.

Houd Chanthy, director of the Ministry of Social Affairs’ labor inspection department, declined to comment Monday.

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