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A waitress at a sports bar in Phnom Penh dashes about during a World Cup game
A waitress at a sports bar in Phnom Penh dashes about during a World Cup game early on Wednesday morning. Scott Howes

On the World Cup clock

It's day seven of the FIFA World Cup, and the night staff at Phnom Penh’s popular Score Sports Bar and Grill are looking a bit sleep-deprived.

Some can’t help themselves yawning behind the bar as they wait for beer towers to fill.

As hundreds of rowdy patrons, a disproportionate number dressed in the bright orange of the Dutch national team, pack into the bar for the clash between Australia and the Netherlands, the small team of bartenders and waitstaff are perpetually scrambling.

“We are open 24 hours, and when you come here, I welcome you,” a female waitress wearing an American-style black-and-white-striped referee shirt says mechanically with a half-tired smile before rushing off to serve another customer.

Her lack of mirth can be forgiven. Like a number of venues in the capital, Score is staying open 24/7 for the World Cup and will screen every game of the tournament.

“We work every night until the games finish,” a male bartender says, referring to his 14-hour shift, which stretches through three matches that, thanks to the extreme time difference between Cambodia and Brazil, kick off at 11pm, 2am and 5am.

“We are tired, but our boss promised to give us extra payment. But we do not know how much yet,” another barman later told the Post.

Score is paying its staff “very well” in extra wages during the World Cup for the long nights they are working, according to manager François Lamontagne, who says he is also offering a bonus and a free trip to Sihanoukville at the end of the tournament.

But some bars and beer gardens catering to the Kingdom’s football fans may be breaching the labour law by failing to pay extra wages for the night-shift work, a union that represents service workers said.

A bartender at a sports bar in Phnom Penh
A bartender at a sports bar in Phnom Penh prepares drinks as punters wait for a World Cup game to start early on Wednesday morning. Scott Howes

“The problem is that the employers do not pay staff working during night shifts in accordance with the labour law,” Sar Mora, president of the Cambodian Food and Service Workers’ Federation, said.

The law, he said, stipulates that workers should be paid 30 per cent extra for night work, defined as taking place between 10pm and 5am.

Under the formula, someone making $20 during a day shift should earn $26 for the equivalent night shift.

Many venues showing all the games have added new shifts to remain open at all hours during the tournament, Mora continued, but are failing to obey the night-time wage and other penalty rates.

General overtime hours should see workers paid a 50 per cent increase on their base salary, while overtime that occurs at night should see workers paid double.

“If you work more than eight hours per day, it must be considered overtime,” Moeun Tola, labour program head at the Community Legal Education Center, said.

Harold Unland, owner of the Sundance Inn and Saloon, which is also open 24 hours during the tournament, said that he was paying double time to overtime workers, because it was “what the staff had asked for”.

But for the new 11pm-7am shift, the bar wasn’t doling out extra pay, because it was the same amount of hours as a normal shift, he said.

The benefits to his bottom line of staying open at all hours don’t appear to be great thus far.

“We’ve usually got a lot of people for the 11pm game. For the second game [at 2am], we have maybe only 10 people, and maybe only one person for the last game, apart from during the England-Italy match. We stay open just in case and because we said we would be open.”

A supervisor at Paddy Rice Irish Sports Bar, on the riverside, also said the venue was not paying extra wages to those working the night shift for the tournament, because it didn’t involve any extra hours being worked compared to a normal shift.

“Lots of people come to watch the games, but when there are no customers [late at night], the staff can take a rest or sit down. It’s not as busy as other places,” he said.

But while venues by and large aren’t abiding by the letter of the law, many are finding other ways to compensate their workers.

“What we’re doing is giving a bonus at the end of the month, which I imagine will be around $40 to $50” on top of a standard salary of between $100 and $150 a month, said Eden Thomas of Eden’s Bar, which is open all night for the tournament.

“We pay workers as much as we possibly can.… What the unions don’t seem to understand is that the wages are linked to [astronomical] rents,” he said.

His staff seems to be content with the arrangement and say they are excited by the general buzz surrounding the tournament.

“I like all of it. We get more customers. It only happens once every four years. It’s a beautiful time, and I’m very happy,” a waitress said.

ADDITIONAL REPORTING BY PHAK SEANGLY

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