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Hotel unions unite

Hotel unions unite

Union representatives of Cambodia's hospitality workers met to form a labor coalition

called the Cambodian Tourist and Service Workers Federation (CTSWF) on September

10. The meeting was held by about 400 labor representatives at the Chenla Theater

in Phnom Penh.

The president of the Hotel Cambodiana employee union, Ly Korm, said the CTSWF represents

about 4,000 workers. He estimates about 75 percent of the country's hospitality workforce

is represented by the federation. The group includes employees from the Hotel Cambodiana,

Sunway Hotel, Hotel InterContinental, Naga Resorts and the Phnom Penh International

Airport.

The main goal of the federation is to solve problems facing each union, Korm said.

"If the federation brings together many unions, it is better than working alone,"

he said. "For instance, right now we are alone, so it's difficult to solve problems

because employers are not afraid of our ability to protest."

The meeting comes shortly after a conflict between the employees union and management

of the Hotel Cambodiana. Employees claimed that a 10 percent service charge was not

being paid fairly to workers. A decision by the Labor Arbitration Council on August

29 awarded each worker $50 in compensation, but left the legal interpretation of

service charges unclear.

Another grievance by the workers is still awaiting a hearing.

Korm said that the hotel had not renewed contracts for 71 workers and plans to lay

off more.

"We have submitted the complaints on firing workers without reason from the

Hotel Cambodiana," Korm said.

But Lun Sidara, an administrative assistant for the hotel, said the poor economy

and too many workers forced the hotel to reduce the number of employees.

Despite the recent labor dispute, the government has expressed support for the new

federation.

Ker Soksidney, a consultant with the Ministry of Labor and Social Affairs, said that

the CTSWF is important because it ensures that companies properly implement the labor

law.

In the past, Soksidney said, employers have abused workers' rights by locking factory

doors and preventing them from leaving during working hours.

He also said that the Federation could advise unions on when to demonstrate.

"Before one union wants to demonstrate, the union has to ask the federation

for help because the federation knows clearly about the labor law," Soksidney

said. "The Federation helps unions, and unions help workers."

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