T he Executive Assistant Manager of the Grand Hotel in Siem Riep says expansion
plans are still being made despite recent employee unrest, attacks against the
management and vandalism.
R. Hariharan said that Rudolf Knuchel, director
of operations, was visiting Bangkok to meet investors in S.K. Angkor, Ltd, the
company which holds the government contract to run the hotel and which will fund
a $3 million, three-phase expansion effort.
Hariharan said: "The first
phase will start in mid-1994 and result in the complete renovation of the
The unrest culminated in a strike which caused the
hotel to be closed for a day on March 11.
Hariharan says that uncertainty
created by unrest among hotel employees strike has blocked movement on the plan
The planned expansion of the hotel will add 110 rooms when the
three phases are complete. With rooms at $70 a night, the hotel is the most
prestigious in Siem Reap and is the automatic choice of well-heeled tourists
visiting the fabled temples nearby at Angkor.
Hariharan says that
continuous petty theft by staff has increased operating costs.
management have often discovered specially-imported glassware and cutlery from
the hotel on sale in Siem Reap market.
Hariharan also pointed to the
overall security situation in Siem Riep as another source of uncertainty which
is delaying the go ahead of the planned expansion.
Within the last three
weeks, three groups of Khmer Rouge conducted early morning raids in Siem Riep in
which a Thai sawmill was burned down.
Over the past two years there have
been three strikes. The March 11 stoppage was the ugliest.
Hariharan, management arrived at the hotel on the morning of March 11 to find
the 143 workers milling in the lobby and outside.
Within the next hour
Hariharan and another assistant manager had to barricade themselves inside one
of the rooms, with 50 to 60 employees outside hacking their way through the room
door and then the bathroom door with axes and crow-bars.
that he feared for his life, but was able to talk the employees into a meeting
Staff said tempers boiled over after Hariharan had refused to
listen to their demands. He tells a different story.
At the meeting the
employees presented their demands. The most important demand, according to
employees interviewed, was an increase in minimum salaries to $50-60.
The management refused to increase the salaries but offered a
three-month redundancy payoff to those wanting to quit.
Staff were told
that if they all quit the hotel would be shut down for a lengthy period.
Staff said that with few other employment opportunites in the town they
had little choice but to go back to work and the hotel re-opened the next
Hariharan said: "I strongly feel that the salaries are quite fair.
The employees have an extensive benefits package that includes 15 days paid
vacation, 24 public holidays, English and skills training, and free medical
Of five employees interviewed, all said that they hated the
Hariharan said, "The employees hate us, and there is a very
good reason for this. In the past two years we have been trying to create a
hotel which operates at an international standard.
"This has been very
difficult, despite extensive education of our work force. We have found it very
hard to get the employees to accept Western management techniques that require
criticism and feedback to correct problems.
Hariharan went on: "The
management team are all internationally trained hoteliers, but our employees are
having to learn what a good hotel is, something they have never seen.
"And we are having difficulties. For example, many of our workers never
saw a toilet before they came here.
"When we tell them that they have
not yet cleaned it well enough, they have no experience to judge our criticism
against and they get angry. But in general our staff is good, there are only a
few bad apples."
Hariharan said that the management has partially solved
the problems that have resulted from the application of Western management by
interposing a layer of Cambodian managers between the hotel's top management and
The March 11 strike was not the first for the hotel. Prior to
the elections, the hotel solved a two-hour work stoppage by agreeing to employee
demands for payment in dollars, rather than riel. The management conceded to the
demand and the hotel resumed operation.
A second round of unrest occurred
after one of the employees threatened Knuchel with a gun after the manager had
tried to discipline him for hanging a shirt in the hotel's back
After this incident, Hariharan says, tensions were eased by a pay
hike for employees with special technical expertise.
said, "He did not want to kill the director, he just wanted to frighten him,
there were no bullets in the gun."
An April 2-3 visit to the hotel by
the Post indicated that operations are back on an even keel.
and German guests said that they were very happy with the service.
American guest said: "The staff in the dining room and reception were very
professional and helpful."