Louk Ta Dambang Kranhoung, great warrior and hero of Battambang, should be able to watch over the city with much greater clarity after these workmen have finished their touch-up job under way last week.
DEMOBILIZED soldiers are being used to take the place of striking workers at one
of Cambodia's top hotels.
The Intercontinental in Phnom Penh has employed three former Royal Cambodian Armed
Forces soldiers as kitchen stewards in an emergency measure during the strike, which
began on April 13.
The soldiers have been recruited from the Retraining Project for Demobilized Soldiers
(RPDS), a new scheme based at the Regent School of Business and funded by the British
The dispute began in late 2003 when workers demanded that luxury hotels pay them
all of the 10 per cent service charge added to most bills.
And it is understood at least one more of the six major hotels involved in the long
running dispute has contacted RPDS claiming they are "desperate" for staff.
Danny Whitehead of the RPDS refused to rule out supplying more former soldiers to
the embattled hotels, but stated his organization would not set a precedent for providing
He said: "We have been working with the Intercontinental Hotel over a long period
of time, and we made it very clear the staff we have given them are a short-term
"We are not strike-breakers. If anyone approached us and asked us to replace
striking workers en masse we would not consider it until the dispute has been formally
and finally resolved."
Funded by the British Government, RPDS is a 12-month course held at the Regent School
of Business on Street 214.
It recruits 50 trainees every six months for two stages of training, each lasting
six months. Soldiers study for an internationally recognized, Australian-government-accredited
TAFE qualification in hospitality and tourism while also undergoing intensive English
In the second block students are placed into full time jobs in the industry while
continuing to study TAFE part time.
Businesses not involved in the dispute who have tak-en on staff include Monivong
Holiday Villa, BB World and the River Star Hotel.
It is still unknown whether staff sacked by the luxury hotels in Siem Reap and Phnom
Penh will be allowed to return to their jobs.
Negotiations took place long into the night on April 21 at the Arbitration Court,
but no agreement could be reached.
The hearing was the 21st time the court has met during the dispute and the two sides
are still a long way from agreement.
Unions continue to demand at least 70 per cent of the money generated by the charge,
while the hotels are unwilling to offer more than 30 per cent. Earlier this year
many dropped the charge altogether after the government ordered them to pay a higher
portion to their staff.
But on Wednesday the subject of the service charge was not even discussed at the
court, with debate centering on the fate of striking staff.
Of the 2,000 workers who took part in the strike from April 5 to 12, hundreds have
been sacked or suspended.
During a break from Wednesday's hearing Manfred Häger, general manager of the
Sunway Hotel, explained he had been told by the board of directors not to make any
comment to the media.
Contrary to reports in other media, Ly Korm, president of the Cambodian Tourism and
Service Workers Federation, stated he had not relinquished control of the mediation.
It has been reported he relinquished control in this phase so that unions at each
hotel could negotiate individually whether striking workers should be allowed to
But he said: "The Arbitration Council decided to solve the issue of returning
workers participating in the strike separately depending on the dispute situation
in each hotel.
"But I will continue to take a leading role in Arbitration Court negotiations
over the service charge. I have not decided to relinquish control."
Staff at seven luxury hotels are involved in the dispute. Most significantly, the
Grand Hotel in Siem Reap has stopped accepting customers.
Sokha Beach Resort at Sihanoukville does not levy a service charge, but pays its
workers more than the Phnom Penh hotels and charges VAT to customers, said the Sokha
Resorts sales director Christopher Tan.
United States Embassy spokeswoman Heide Bronke said: "We hope the present dispute
will be resolved peacefully within Cambodian standards and Cambodian laws.
"We support workers rights; the right to organize freely without intimidation,
to negotiate in good faith, collective bargaining and the right to strike.
"We support the decision of the Labor Arbitration Court."