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Employers Reject Negotiations - Support Cambodian Hotel Unions!

Posted to the IUF website 02-Apr-2004

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The IUF-affiliated Cambodian Tourism and Service Workers’ Federation (CTSWF) has requested international support for their campaign to require hotel employers to distribute to employees the hotel service charges which form a major part of hotel workers’ income. Employers have unilaterally rejected rulings of the Cambodia Arbitration Council instructing them to comply with Cambodian law and distribute 100 percent of the service charges to employees on a regular monthly basis. In many cases Cambodian hotels have collected service charges for over five years, but never properly distributed these funds. The CTSWF estimates the total amount of outstanding service charge owed to hotel workers at USD 3 million for the past three years alone. The federation gave employers until April 2 to reinstate the service charge and took strike notice action on April 5 when the employers refused to move on this issue.

Throughout 2003, the CTSWF campaigned at Phnom Penh's five-star Cambodiana Hotel for the full distribution to workers of the 10 percent service charge, which was distributed as a monthly “reward” with no accounting for the sums collected. When management refused to bargain in good faith, the Cambodian Arbitration Council in August 2003 determined that the collective bargaining process had broken down and instructed management to distribute to all employees 100% of the amount collected in a clear and transparent way. Management at that time accepted the ruling of the Arbitration Council and proceeded to distribute the service charge in full. Previously, each worker had received an average 30 to 40 USD per month in the form of a “reward” payment. Following the change to full distribution of the service charge. payments rose to USD 160 in November 2003, USD 120 in December and USD 97 in January 2004.

However on January 28, 2004, the Cambodiana announced that it was discontinuing the collection of service charge effective February 1, thereby inflicting a major loss of income on the hotel's workers.

A similar arbitration decision was issued for the luxury Raffles Siem Riep and Raffles Phnom Penh hotels. Following union strike action when negotiations deadlocked, the Arbitration Council on January 27 ordered an increase in the minimum wage to USD 50 and full service charge distribution on a monthly basis. Service charge collection was discontinued effective February 1, 2004. 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.

As negotiations opened at industry level, the employers' association declared on February 17, 2004, that they had tentatively agreed to resume collecting service charge, prompting the federation to cancel its strike notice. On March 4, the day before another meeting was planned to discuss the level of service charge and its distribution, the employers reneged on their earlier commitment and declared that they were unwilling to resume the service charge collection. The CTSWF therefore had no alternative but to walk off the job on April 5.

The service charge campaign is a major conflict for the young federation, which was formed in September last year. At issue is the employers' determination to unilaterally reject the collective bargaining process and impose on employees a massive loss of income. The hotel unions are among the few organizations in Cambodia's young labour movement which have succeeded in gaining both recognition and collective bargaining agreements. The outcome of this struggle will have a major impact on unions' ability to win new members and influence conditions in Cambodia's growing tourism industry.

Act Now!


You can support the Cambodian Tourism and Service Workers’ Federation (CTSWF) by sending a message to managers of those hotels where the CTSWF is fighting for the collection and fair distribution of the service charge. These hotels are the following:

Hotel Cambodiana Phnom Penh
InterContinental Hotel Phnom Penh
Raffles Le Royal Phnom Penh
Raffles Grand Hotel d’Angkor Siem Riep
Sunway Phnom Penh
Sofitel Siem Riep
Juliana Hotel Phnom Penh
Holiday Villa Phnom Penh

Please make sure that your messages are sent before April 5. 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.