The Angkor Village Hotel and Resort is breaking the law by refusing to reinstate 67 sacked workers that the Arbitration Council ruled were unlawfully dismissed, Siem Reap’s deputy governor claimed yesterday.
After attending a protest of hotel workers and supporters outside the hotel in Siem Reap town yesterday, Kim Chhay Heang said company owner Tep Vantho had simply ignored orders from his office to abide by an Arbitration Council decision and Cambodian law.
“The owner didn’t listen to what we said or what we’ve commanded, she had a purpose to act against the law, and she blamed authorities for allowing workers to hold a demonstration in a tourism city like this,” he said.
At the protest, sacked workers, supporters and union officials distributed leaflets to international tourists seeking their support in their fight to force Tep Vantho to reverse the allegedly illegal mass termination of 67 her employees.
The workers were sacked between July and August after some of them began establishing a union, though Angkor Village Hotel and Resort’s owners have claimed their dismal was due to unrelated misconduct including, in some case, attempts to poison the management.
Tep Vantho did not answer phone calls yesterday.
Article 266 of the Trade Union Law gives employees “without distinction whatsoever” the right to form unions while articles 279 and 280 strictly forbid an employer from interfering with unions or using a worker’s association with one to dismiss them.
In a non-binding ruling of the Arbitration Council handed down on August 16, the hotel was ordered to reinstate and give back pay to the sacked workers.
Dave Welsh, country director of the American Centre for International Labor Solidarity, said Tep Vantho was clearly in breach the Trade Union Law.
“The union was legally formed, once legally formed not only does [the employer] have an obligation to acknowledge it, they have an obligation to begin collectively bargaining with it. What they did was sack 85 percent of their staff,” he said.
Late last month, after another protest, Kim Chhay Heang said his office would order Tep Vantho to reinstate the workers because the dispute was creating an ugly spectacle in Cambodia’s premier tourism destination.
Sok Narith, Deputy Secretary of the Cambodian Tourism and Service Workers Federation, vowed yesterday to continue his protest for days on end until Tep Vantho caved into their demands.
“We will spend two hours in the morning and another two hours in the afternoon to protest and after that we will parade in the city everyday to spread news to local residents as well as international tourists” he said.
Three pick-up trucks filled with police armed with riot shields had come and entered the hotel to ensure violence didn’t break out but had not been forced into action, he said. “Our purpose is just that we want to get our jobs back, I don’t want to affect tourism in this city or affect tourists’ experience,” he added.
Dave Welsh said it was “outrageous and somewhat ironic” that foreign owned, multinational hotels collectively bargained with employees and abided by labour laws while a privately-owned Cambodian company seemed happy to violate them.
Last month, six union representatives were summonsed to Siem Reap provincial court on charges stemming from a complaint made by Tep Vantho that they made death threats, illegally demonstrated, incited people to perform criminal acts and destroying the individual interests of the owner and other staff. No verdict had been reached in the case and the suspects have not been detained.