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Raffles Cambodia Management Loots Hotel Union Office, Sets Up Yellow Union as Hundreds of Union Members are Sacked

Posted to the IUF website 12-May-2004

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Management of Raffles luxury Grand Hotel d'Angkor continues its aggression against the Cambodian Tourism and Service Workers’ Federation (CTSWF), which has been engaged with Raffles and other 5-star hotel operators in a bitter conflict over trade union rights. Raffles two hotels in - Cambodia - the Grand in Siem Riep and Le Royale in Phnom Penh - fired over three hundred union members who attempted to return to work following a peaceful, legal strike from April 5-12. The union has been demanding that the service charge collected by these hotels from all guests be distributed to the workers as prescribed by Cambodian law.

On May 7, Raffles Grand management ordered the union's office in the hotel emptied of union records as sacked unionists continued their picket outside. In the course of the looting operation, the union's government certificate establishing it as the legal representative of the hotel's employees was stolen.

Raffles then set up a paper employee organization with which it concluded an illegal "agreement" to regulate wages and working conditions, and announced to the international business media that the dispute had been "settled".

The union, whose hundreds of sacked members at Raffles' two establishments continue to demonstrate outside the hotels, has a different view.

According to union president Ly Korm "It is not correct to say that the dispute is over. Two hundred of our members continue to protest outside the hotel seeking their right to return to work. The company has not respected any of the laws which relate to the establishment of unions and which forbid interference by outside forces. There has been no election nor legal procedures followed."

On May 10, Raffles reiterated its anti-union position at a meeting between management and the legitimate union held under the auspices of the provincial labour ministry, at which Raffles' lawyer insisted that the illegally dismissed workers would not be reinstated.

The Ministry of Labour has now issued a draft regulation on the service charge directing hotels to collect a 10 percent service charge and distribute half to employees. The implementation of the service charge regulation is subject to tripartite consultation under the auspices of the national Labour Advisory Council.

While several of the hotels involved in the strike have shown a willingness to rehire strikers and participate in government arbitration procedures, Raffles is leading the hard-line assault on the young union. Raffles' increasingly aggressive union-busting highlights the urgency of international support for the CTSWF.

For more information on the conflict and to send a message to Raffles click here.