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Uniting Food, Farm and Hotel Workers World-Wide

Raffles Cambodia Steps Up Anti-Union Aggression/Call for Global Solidarity

Posted to the IUF website 18-May-2004

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The Singapore-based Raffles hotel group (which also includes Swissotel) is leading a vicious campaign against the IUF's affiliate in Cambodia, the Cambodian Tourism and Service Workers’ Federation (CTSWF). The union has been engaged in a bitter fight with Raffles' two luxury establishments in Cambodia, the Raffles Grand in Siem Riep (gateway to the Angkor temple complex) and Raffles Le Royale in Phnom Penh.

For years, five-star establishments in Cambodia (which typically charge for one night more than the average Cambodian earns in one year) have been pocketing the 10 percent service charge they collect on all services. Cambodian law says that the service charge must be distributed in full, on a monthly basis, to all employees where it is collected (the law does not mandate service charge collection). The hotels have distributed a small fraction as occasional "bonuses" or not at all. The CTSWF estimates the total amount of outstanding service charge owed to hotel workers at USD 3 million for the past three years alone (for full background information click here).

On January 27, the Cambodian Arbitration Council instructed Raffles to implement an increase in the minimum wage to USD 50 and full service charge distribution on a monthly basis. Rather than comply with the ruling, Raffles discontinued the service charge on February 1. Other leading hotels across the country likewise indicated their intention to abandon service charge collection, leaving the federation no choice but to give notice of strike action.

When all attempts at arbitration failed owing to the hotels' intransigence, union members at 6 luxury hotels walked off the job for one week beginning on April 5. On April 12, the Cambodian Arbitration Council requested a return to work and negotiations under the auspices of the Council. The hotels retaliated for the peaceful industrial action by sacking hundreds of union members. The retaliatory sackings are in direct violation of the interim order of the Cambodian Arbitration Council prohibiting employers "from pursuing any action against their employees with regard to participation in the strike from 5-12 April 2004."

Three of the hotels involved in the dispute have taken back the strikers and at least provisionally submitted to arbitration of the service charge and related issues. The Malaysian-owned Sunway Hotel in Phnom Penh still refuses to reinstate 28 dismissed union members

Raffles, however, has launched all-out war against the union.

Some three hundred union members have been fired at the two hotels.

On May 7, Raffles Grand management in Siem Riep ordered the union's office in the hotel emptied of union records as sacked unionists continued their picket outside. The hotel's personnel manager personally took charge of the operation, while police prevented union officers from access to their office. In the course of the looting exercise, 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".

One week later, they did the same thing at Le Royale in Phnom Penh, announcing to the press that Le Royale has "reached a year-long agreement with an elected employees' committee, which has replaced the hotel's former union as a bargaining partner."

While the yellow unions are patently illegal, the Ministry of Labour refuses to disclose whether these pliant organizations fronting for management have been properly registered as the law requires.

The union has refused to bow to this pressure, and continues to picket outside the Raffles hotels and campaign inside Cambodia. But they need your support.

What you can do

Send a message to the management of Raffles two Cambodian properties, with a copy to the Phnom Penh Sunway. Demand that all who took part in the legal industrial action of April 5-12 be immediately reinstated, and that management enter into good faith negotiations with the union under the aegis of the arbitration council to negotiate a solution to the issues at the heart of the conflict.

To send a message click here!

Copies of your protest will automatically be sent to the IUF general and regional secretariat and to our affiliate in Cambodia.

You can copy your message to Raffles International by going here.

You can also send messages to the management of the Raffles and Swissotels in your country, telling them what you think of their employment practices in Cambodia and alerting them to the damaging implications for their global brand name. A list of the international Raffles locations can be found here.

A directory of Swissotels is available here.

Please send copies of any messages you might send to the IUF secretariat.

We thank you in advance for your solidarity and support.