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Labor Ministry Promises Former Hotel Employees Their Dues

Former employees at the Great Duke Hotel protest in front of the hotel, demanding compensation from the hotel's owner, Phnom Penh, Cambodia, May 21, 2020. (Kann Vicheika/VOA Khmer)

Former employees of the Great Duke Hotel in Phnom Penh protested again outside the hotel for unpaid dues, with the Ministry of Labor announcing a compensation agreement but refusing to reveal the details of this deal.

Around 30 former employees of the now-shuttered Great Duke Hotel protested outside demanding their severance and seniority pay, which was supposed to be given to the former hotel staff, according to a February 20, 2020, Arbitration Council ruling.

Around 150 workers have been protesting since December 2019, when the hotel closed down, leaving the workers with unpaid dues.

The employees were expected to march to Prime Minister Hun Sen’s house near Independence Monument but Labor Ministry spokesperson Heng Sour arrived outside the hotel to inform the workers that they would get their compensation next week.

“This afternoon we are reviewing the list [of workers] and we will try to figure out how to make a payment for you next week,” Heng Sour said.

Heng Sour did not disclose the source of money, only to say that the ministry would seek funding for the 152 former employees after which they would take the issue to the hotel's owners.

The Great Duke Hotel, renamed from Intercontinental Hotel, was owned by the then-influential Thai Boon Roong company. It is currently listed on the Ministry of Commerce business registration under Regency Company and under the ownership of Khov Sambath, who could not be reached on Thursday.

Touch Kosal, president of the Cambodian Tourism Workers Union and a former Great Duke hotel employee, said all former employees would suspend their protest starting Thursday afternoon to see if the Labor Ministry can provide them their dues.

“If next week we have no money or no solution, we will lose our patience and we have to march to the prime minister's house even we get blocked or are met with violence,” he said.

According to Touch Kosal, former employees were owned between $1,000 and $2,000 each, which was lower than what they are supposed to get. Earlier, the hotel workers had reduced their demands in the hope of getting some compensation from the hotel owners.

Standing in front of the Great Duke Hotel, Rorn Makara, a former waitress at the hotel, said she had no employment for the last 5 months, ever since the hotel closed down. The 33-year-old former employee said that if she got compensation, she would use the money to start a small business.

“I would get about $1,000,” she said. “If we get money then we can sell groceries at home. And now, without money, it’s very difficult.”

Rorn Makara has an 8-year-old son and husband, who also works in the hotel industry. She was committed to continuing the protests till they got paid.

Khun Tharo, a program coordinator at labor rights group Central, said it was the government’s failure if it could not get the owners of the multi-million hotel investment to pay its employees.

"It shows how bad it is when the workers are demanding legal compensation but the ministry has no influence over the company; even after many negotiations there are no measures to pressure [the company],” he said.