Noise from a loudspeaker yesterday cut through the usual peace on street 282 in Phnom Penh’s Beoung Keng Kang 1 neighbourhood, as five former massage workers at upscale spa Aziadee protested the sudden termination of their contracts.
Waving posters in front of the shop and taking turns at the speaker, the workers said they had been fired without receiving final wages or other benefits – in violation of an Arbitration Council decision – after they attended the return of the late King Father Norodom Sihanouk’s body in October.
“We asked permission from our boss to participate in the return of our King Father, but we were not allowed to go,” said Den Sambor. “We asked the employer to cut our wages to $20 per person for that one day, but we still were not allowed to go.”
When they returned to work the day after the body’s return, they were told they had been fired, said Sambor, who, like the other demonstrators, was wearing a black ribbon of mourning for the late King Father.
Taking up the loudspeaker, she added: “You have to pay benefits and last wages for us. You come to live in my country, so you have to respect our law, respect our king.”
Tuy Sitheang, a dispute resolution official from the Cambodia Food Service Workers Federation (CFSWF), said at the protest that the Arbitration Council had ordered the company to pay the fired workers several benefits.
“Cambodian labour law has to be respected if you live and make business in Cambodia,” he said.
The protest, which included a sign saying “Don’t come here,” caught the attention of several passersby.
“I’d heard about garment strikes, but never one here,” said capital resident Steve Pierce.
Pierce said he would mention the protest to his wife, who frequented Aziadee.
“It absolutely gives one pause,” said a professor who frequently had Aziadee massages, adding that she needed to look into the matter further.
Aziadee’s manager was not on hand at the protest, and could not be reached.