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Striking Angkor Beer promoters 'fired'

Beer promotion workers protest at the Angkor brewery in the capital’s Tuol Kork district yesterday.
Beer promotion workers protest at the Angkor brewery in the capital’s Tuol Kork district yesterday. Hong Menea

Striking Angkor Beer promoters 'fired'

Angkor beer promoters who have been demonstrating against lengthened working hours and short-term contracts said yesterday that they were fired for their strikes by Angkor’s parent company, Cambrew, an apparent direct violation of the Labour Law.

The 11 women have been protesting since Sunday against widespread use of six-month contracts and a decision to shift their working hours from 2pm to 9pm to 3:30pm to 11pm with no mandatory bonuses for working late.

In compliance with a letter from the Arbitration Council ordering them back to work until the dispute is resolved, the 11 workers – half of the 22 protesters who showed up to the last protest on Tuesday – returned to their workplaces yesterday.

However, the promoters said they encountered photos of their faces posted on walls and were blocked by security guards, who told them they had been fired.

“This company discriminates against us women,” said one of the 11, Por Sinath, a 38-year-old beer promoter.

“If the company does not rehire us, we will call on the public to stop drinking Angkor beer.”

However, Angkor beer denied the 11 women were fired, claiming instead that they had left of their own volition due to the lengthened hours.

“The company did not fire them – they don’t want to work at the company anymore,” said Ngieb Chheng Leab, chief of administration at Angkor beer.

“There is a lot of competition out there, and a lot of beers in the market, not only Angkor beer . . . The company changed the schedule based on the real situation and real demand.”

The apparent dismissal of the 11 protesters, who represented some 300 Cambrew beer promoters, has escalated the protest. Tuy Sythieng, program manager at the Cambodian Food and Service Workers Federation, said the union would urge for a boycott of Angkor and “use international mechanisms” to apply pressure on Cambrew, half of which is owned by Danish beer conglomerate Carlsberg.

“The Labour Law says you cannot fire anyone when you are protesting,” he said.

Sythieng said the union would file complaints with Carlsberg and cooperate with a Danish union to push the issue. Carlsberg declined to comment, referring the matter to Cambrew.

Beer promoters in Cambodia have long complained of long hours and dangerous working conditions due to sexual harassment and forced drinking with customers.

Ian Lubek, a Canadian academic who has done extensive research on the subject, said moving working hours past 10pm would likely result in “more disrespectful and perhaps harassing behaviour from customers who have been drinking throughout the evening”.

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