Workers at Airports May Join Strike

Workers striking at six of the country’s top hotels on Wednes­day gained the support of a visiting US lawmaker, while unions representing airport and casino workers threatened to walk off the job themselves in solidarity.

The International Airport Inde­pendent Union, which represents about 600 workers at the airports in Phnom Penh and Siem Reap, and the workers union at Naga Casino voiced their support for the striking hotel workers in separate letters sent Wednesday to the Ministry of Social Affairs.

Both unions, which also belong to the Cambodia Tourism and Service Workers Federation that represents hotel workers, warned they, too, would strike if the dispute is not resolved by Monday.

“We will definitely go on strike to support the federation,” said Khim Linda, vice president of the airport workers union.

Though no tires were torched as the hotel workers’ unions promised, the two sides were no closer to resolving the three-day dispute late Wednesday. Workers continued to demand 75 percent of service charges while hotel managers only want to give them

30 percent.

“It’s the same thing over and over again,” Pierre Bernard, general manager of the Hotel Cambodiana and deputy president of the Phnom Penh Hotel Association, said Wednesday.

Meanwhile, US Congressman George Miller, a long-time labor advocate, met with four unions on Wednesday, including the Cambodia Tourism and Service Workers Federation.

Miller “promised to help us to pressure the government” to force hotels to pay 75 percent of the service charge to workers, Ly Korm, the federation’s president, said after the meeting.

The hotel workers were dealt a blow on Tuesday when Phnom Penh Municipal Court Judge Tan Senarong declared the strike at the Hotel Cambodiana illegal.

“The strike is dangerous to the safety and order of the hotel and especially the investor,” Tan Senarong wrote. “The workers must stop the strike.”

The other hotels where workers are striking—the Hotel InterContinental and Raffles Le Royal Hotel in Phnom Penh, and the Pansea Angkor Hotel, Grand Hotel d’Angkor and Sofitel Royal Angkor Hotel in Siem Reap—did not file complaints with the court.

Ly Korm brushed off the judge’s order Wednesday, saying: “We will continue our strike. The judge doesn’t know anything.”

Bernard said he expected workers to return today in accordance with the court order. Though the strike has hurt business, Bernard said he is not worried about security of guests.

“It’s noisy, but peaceful,” he said.

In Siem Reap, more than 100 police were deployed to keep workers from getting too close to the Grand Hotel d’Angkor, alleged Pap Sambo, the hotel’s union president.

“We and the police pushed each other forward and backward,” he said, adding that one worker was hurt in the shoving.

Siem Reap District Police Chief Pheun Arun denied any clash between police and workers.

The Grand Hotel d’Angkor was moving guests to different hotels because it could not serve them properly, said an Asian diplomat familiar with the strike negotiations.

“If this keeps up, there is a danger that the present hotel owners may not want to continue,” the diplomat said of the strikes. “If reputable companies start to pull out, that would not bode well for the investment climate in Cambodia.”

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