Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Siem Reap airport employees protest layoffs

Siem Reap airport employees protest layoffs

Content image - Phnom Penh Post
Almost 100 former employees of Siem Reap International Airport protests their layoffs by the airport operator. Facebook

Siem Reap airport employees protest layoffs

Former employees of the Siem Reap Intertional Airport and their union stand firm by their protests and plans to re-file a lawsuit over claims that the airport operator has violated employees’ rights and pertinent labour laws after workers were laid off in the fallout from Covid-19.

The announcement followed protests on January 22 by almost 100 employees of Cambodia Airports, the joint venture company contracted to operate the Kingdom’s international airports, representing 161 workers who were laid off in December. Protesters gathered and held up banners in front of the provincial Department of Labour and Vocational Training.

Mom Simsela, an employee with 19 years of seniority who was laid off by the company, told The Post on January 25 that it was unjust for the employees as most of those who were laid off had many years of seniority.

He added that during the layoff, the company had violated employees’ rights by not providing compensation and benefits in violation of the law, and there had been examples of favouritism and discrimination.

“We will file a lawsuit with the ministry again – and perhaps other departments or the prime minister – to urge the company to negotiate and settle with us. Our work contracts were terminated without our consent, causing our loss of benefits. This is not in accordance with Cambodian law,” he said.

According to Simsela, over the past year and a half, the company cut workers’ salaries by 20 to 50 per cent and forced employees to resign or retire ahead of schedule. These factors have caused difficulties for many people, especially those who have bank loans to repay.

According to Bun Ratha, director of Siem Reap international airport, the dispute is between employees and the company operating the airport. He recommended disaffected parties to take complaints to the labour ministry for resolution.

“Regarding the layoffs, the union and the company have available procedures to appeal to the Arbitration Council,” he said.

“If someone does not agree with the layoffs, they can continue to protest because this falls under the category of labour disputes where both parties may defer to the labour law to negotiate an acceptable outcome,” Ratha added.

Chan Sokhom Chenda, director of the provincial labour department, acknowledged that airport staff had submitted a letter to the ministry asking for intervention.

He said the ministry had delegated authority to resolve the dispute to his department, and he would attempt to mediate a solution acceptable to both parties. He noted that no one was to blame for the hardships endured by both the company and its employees.

“We have contacted [labour representatives] to facilitate to a solution according to the legal procedures, but they did not listen, instead making accusations and holding protests.

“In fact, the layoffs of the 161 employees by the airport were in response to the Covid-19 crisis. If foreign tourists do not dare to visit and employees do not have work, how can [the company] have money to pay them? This is why the company decided to layoff some employees,” he said.

Sokhom Chenda agreed the union and employees have the right to protest and said he would do his best to resolve their dispute. He cited a report indicating that 131 employees had already agreed to a monetary settlement from the company, meaning there were few complaints remaining.

Ron Ravan, chief of the Siem Reap Airport Union and the Cambodia Transport Workers Federation, said that he wanted the relevant parties to resolve the problem as a jointly rather than as individual cases. Collective representation would better serve workers’ interests and help them to resist pressure to make individual settlements that would be less beneficial.

He said employees with many years of seniority should receive preferential treatment, but instead, when there are layoffs, they are the first to go.

“Those who were hit with the steepest pay cuts were employees who had been there for many years, and then they were laid off first,” he said.

“When they were laid off, their full salaries were not used to calculate severance benefits, but rather, figures of just 50 or 80 per cent of their salaries were used. Furthermore, employees with personal connections did not get laid off or receive pay cuts,” he added.

MOST VIEWED

  • Hong Kong firm done buying Coke Cambodia

    Swire Coca-Cola Ltd, a wholly-owned subsidiary of Hong Kong-listed Swire Pacific Ltd, on November 25 announced that it had completed the acquisition of The Coca-Cola Co’s bottling business in Cambodia, as part of its ambitions to expand into the Southeast Asian market. Swire Coca-Cola affirmed

  • Cambodia's Bokator now officially in World Heritage List

    UNESCO has officially inscribed Cambodia’s “Kun Lbokator”, commonly known as Bokator, on the World Heritage List, according to Minister of Culture and Fine Arts Phoeurng Sackona in her brief report to Prime Minister Hun Sen on the night of November 29. Her report, which was

  • NagaWorld union leader arrested at airport after Australia trip

    Chhim Sithar, head of the Labour Rights Supported Union of Khmer Employees at NagaWorld integrated casino resort, was arrested on November 26 at Phnom Penh International Airport and placed in pre-trial detention after returning from a 12-day trip to Australia. Phnom Penh Municipal Court Investigating Judge

  • Sub-Decree approves $30M for mine clearance

    The Cambodian government established the ‘Mine-Free Cambodia 2025 Foundation’, and released an initial budget of $30 million. Based on the progress of the foundation in 2023, 2024 and 2025, more funds will be added from the national budget and other sources. In a sub-decree signed by Prime Minister Hun Sen

  • Two senior GDP officials defect to CPP

    Two senior officials of the Grassroots Democratic Party (GDP) have asked to join the Cambodian People’s Party (CPP), after apparently failing to forge a political alliance in the run-up to the 2023 general election. Yang Saing Koma, chairman of the GDP board, and Lek Sothear,

  • Cambodia's poverty cut in half from 2009 to 2019: World Bank report

    A report published by the World Bank on November 28 states that Cambodia’s national poverty rate fell by almost half between 2009 and 2019, but the Covid-19 pandemic recently reversed some of the poverty reduction progress. Cambodia’s poverty rate dropped from 33.8 to 17.8 per cent over the 10