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A promoter serves patrons beer at a restaurant in Phnom Penh
A promoter serves patrons beer at a restaurant in Phnom Penh. A subdecree submitted to the Ministry of Labour aims to protect entertainment workers against forced overtime and sexual harassment. Heng Chivoan

Better protection entertained

Workers in an industry where obnoxious, drunk customers and 12-hour shifts are common could gain legal safeguards if a subdecree brought before a Ministry of Labour committee yesterday passes into law.

The set of prakases for entertainment workers – which appeared before the Labour Advisory Committee (LAC) but was not signed – would legally protect them from exploitative practices such as sexual harassment and forced overtime work without additional pay.

“We find that it’s a good start, that it will bring more attention of the Ministry of Labour to have more responsibility [towards entertainment workers],” said Sar Mora, president of the Cambodian Food and Service Workers Federation.

“This is also to remind employers, especially in this sector . . . to follow the Cambodian labour law.”

Ministry of Labour spokesman Heng Sour yesterday declined to comment, saying he was out of the country.

Workers covered in the subdecree include alcohol promoters, employees in beer gardens, karaoke bars, resorts and massage parlours, as well as those in other professions.

Employees in the industry are often pressured to drink, smoke and engage their customers in a provocative manner in order to earn tips, which supplements their meagre incomes, said Moeun Tola, head of the labour program at the Community Legal Education Center.

“The more they depend on the tips, the more they try to be close, try to be friendly with the customer, and the more they are faced with sexual harassment,” he said.

The draft legislation’s section on forced work prohibits forcing employees to ingest any kind of substance or abort a pregnancy. Another clearly forbids any form of violence or sexual harassment.

In addition, the law would define a workweek in the industry as 48 hours, requiring compensation for extra hours worked, said Ath Thorn, an LAC member.

“The right of workers would include no forced labour, no discrimination against [any] worker,” Thorn said. A follow-up meeting has not been announced.

ADDITIONAL REPORTING BY MOM KUNTHEAR

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