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Hello staff contracts ‘breached’

120905_05

Customers exit a Hello mobile service centre yesterday in Phnom Penh’s Chamkarmon district. Photograph: Hong Menea/Phnom Penh Post

Almost 100 members of the sales and service staff of mobile phone provider Hellopoint are awaiting a meeting with the Ministry of Labour after submitting a complaint last month claiming that a policy introduced in July amounted to a breach of their employment contracts.

According to a copy of the August 13 complaint obtained by the Post yesterday, the “Hellopoint Incentive Scheme Policy”, which sets up incentive bonuses for those whose sales figures exceed certain quotas, also allows for 10 to 20 per cent deductions in staffers’ base pay if those quotas are not met, disregarding the base salaries guaranteed in the complainants’ employment contracts.

An apparent copy of a Hellopoint employment contract provided to the Post makes no mention of sales quotas, or possible wage garnishments, saying that the only deduction from workers’ pay would be in the form of taxes.

“It sounds to me like it’s violating the contract itself,” said Moeun Tola, head of the labour program at the Community Legal Education Center, noting that pay bumps for meeting performance quotas are legal, but pay cuts stemming from a failure to meet quotas are not.

“Wage deduction is very restricted in the Cambodian labour law,” he added.

In fact, Article 127 of the Labour Law forbids deductions from employees’ salaries, with only a handful of exceptions, and Article 129 states: “Collective agreements authorising any wage deductions other than these cases are null and void.”

Staff representative Uk Samphas maintained that many current employees had not agreed to the changes, and that management had sought to force the staff to abide by the policy by severing dissenters’ contracts, with pay, in order to end the case “silently”.

“The company is willing to end the contract of staffers by offering compensation in a bid to further its new policy,” Samphas said.

“I think that it is a way to conceal the truth of labour exploitation made by the company.”

Hello Axiata Chief Financial Officer Phillip Wong, however, defended the business sense of the new policy, and said that he had been told that employees had agreed to amend their contracts.

“We are introducing what you call a high-performance culture at Hello,” he said, adding that the new scheme will insure greater pay, on average. In Cambodia, this system of fixed salaries is 20 years behind the developed world. It’s not an issue of labour; it’s an issue of moving forward.”

Wong declined to comment on what measures would be taken if employees’ contracts had not been amended.

According to Samphas, the Ministry of Labour had asked for a meeting with the complainants, saying that a discussion between both sides would take place at a later date.

To contact the reporters on this story: Kim Yuthana at yuthana.kim@phnompenhpost.com
Stuart White at stuart.white@phnompenhpost.com

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