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Scrutiny over hotel service fees in Cambodia

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A guest pays a bill in a restaurant at an upscale hotel in Phnom Penh, Monday, Feb. 11, 2013. Photograph: Pha Lina/Phnom Penh Post

Major hotels are under the microscope after a labour rights group found that some have been failing to pass their entire service charge on to their staff, a violation of the Labour Law.

Dave Welsh, country manager of the American Center for International Labor Solidarity (ACILS), said yesterday that preliminary studies of large hotels conducted by his organisation showed many were not passing on all of their service charges.

“The bottom line is that these hotels cater to tourists. And if they are charging service charges, the implication is that all of it goes to workers,” he said, adding that Article 1.34 of the Labour Law said that mandatory service fees must be paid to the person in contact with the customer.

“At the Sofitel in Siem Reap, only 4.5 per cent of a 5 per cent service charge goes to workers. The Sunway Hotel charges 10 per cent, with only 8 per cent going back to workers,” he said, citing anonymous sources who had worked with ACILS.

“We’re not claiming gross violations, but we need improvement and it needs to be monitored.”

In 2003, the Arbitration Council handed down a non-binding ruling against the Cambodiana Hotel, ordering it to give all of its service charge revenue to its workers.

A staff member from the Cambodiana Hotel, who did not want to be named, said yesterday that the hotel no longer charged customers a service charge.

Sok Narith, secretary-general of the Cambodian Tourism and Service Workers Federation, said the payment of service charge revenue to employees varied greatly depending on the hotel.

“The Sokha Hotel has no union,” he said.

“We have met with staff there in the past. They said the hotel enforces a 10 per cent service charge, but the workers get only up to $30 per month on top of their salaries. It’s a very small amount.”

Op Sarom, operations manager at Sokha Club Hotel in Phnom Penh, denied allegations that his hotel was short-changing workers.

“We charge customers 5 per cent and we pass that on in full to our staff.”

Charles-Henri Chevet, general manager of the Sofitel Hotel in Phnom Penh, said his hotel’s service charge was 5 per cent.

“We share that with the staff,” he said.

A staff member from the Sofitel in Siem Reap told the Post that workers received all of the service charge.

Senior management from the Sunway Hotel were not available for comment.

A staff member who asked not to be named, however, confirmed that a 10 per cent service charge was in place, but said it did not all go to the staff.

To contact the reporters on this story: Shane Worrell at shane.worrell@phnompenhpost.com,
Chhay Channyda at channyda.chhay@phnompenhpost.com

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