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Women hotel workers in Cambodia fight illegal mass firings

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Workers unfairly terminated for trade union organizing at the five star Angkor Village Hotel and Angkor Village Botanical Resort Hotel in Siem Reap, Cambodia, are fighting for their rights, their jobs and their union - and need your support.

The IUF-affiliated Cambodian Tourism and Service Workers' Federation (CTSWF) assisted the workers, mostly women, in organizing unions at both hotels after workers complained of unpaid wages, illegal wage deductions, denial of legal entitlements such as annual leave and public holidays, and poor health and safety conditions. The trade unions were formed on July 4, 2011, according to the law, but on July 25 the owners - Olivier Piot, a French national, and Tep Vattho, a Cambodian national holding a French passport - began illegally terminating workers. From July 25 to August 6 a total of 67 of the 90 workers at both hotels were unfairly dismissed.

The owners later fabricated a range of false charges against the workers to justify their dismissal. It was only after the mass termination that the workers gathered at the hotel to find out why they were dismissed, yet the owners later claimed this was an "illegal strike" and used it as the reason for their termination.

CTSWF won a decision in support of the dismissed workers at the Arbitration Council on August 30. The Council instructed the owners to reinstate all the workers with back pay. The owners refused to accept this decision.

In response the workers held a demonstration in front of the hotel on September 15, prompting the intervention of the Provincial Deputy Governor, who promised to help in resolving their case. Attempts at mediation by provincial authorities on September 23 failed to get the owners to comply with the Arbitration Council decision.

CTSWF organized a second demonstration - lasting six days - in front of the hotel from October 5-10. During this demonstration the Governor of Siem Reap Province and representatives of the Ministry of Labour compelled the owners of Angkor Village to attend a conciliation meeting on October 8, but again no progress was made.

A hearing was then held at the Siem Reap Provincial Court on October 20 to have the hotel owners abide by the Arbitration Council decision. On October 26 the Court issued a verdict in favour of the illegally terminated workers, ordering that they be reinstated. But the owners appealed the verdict and again refused to allow the workers back to work. A second Court order issued on November 15 and delivered by the police instructed the owners to reinstate the workers pending the outcome of the appeal.

On October 26, the Court also ordered the union to stop any further demonstrations. Frustrated by the failure of the authorities to enforce the employer's compliance with two Court orders for reinstatement, CTSWF organized a third six-day demonstration starting on November 23.

Despite the peaceful nature of the action - the dismissed workers stood in front of the hotel holding copies of the second court verdict ordering their reinstatement - police arrested Morm Rithy, Vice President of CTSWF and Ron Ravan, Assistant to CTSWF and President of the Cambodia Airport Management Services (CAMS) Siem Reap Workers Union and took them to the Siem Reap Court for interrogation. Hundreds of CTSWF members mobilized outside the court. Morm Rithy was released that night, Ron Ravan was released the next day..

As the peaceful rally continued on November 24, the workers attempted to report to duty in compliance with the court order, but the hotel owners refused them entry to the property.

While the owners of these luxury resorts travel to and from France, the terminated workers are driven deeper into poverty and hardship. In a vicious move designed to deepen this poverty and punish workers for exercising their basic rights, Olivier Piot and Tep Vattho had the dismissed workers blacklisted, calling on other hotels in Siem Reap not to hire them. Tep Vattho is particularly influential because of her position as head of The Urban Development Department of the internationally funded ASPARA (Authority for the Protection and Management of Angkor and the Region of Siem Reap) which is responsible for tourist sites in the area of Siem Reap.

You can support the struggle by sending a message to the owners of the luxury Angkor Village Hotel and Angkor Village Botanical Resort Hotel calling on them to unconditionally reinstate all of the dismissed workers with back pay, respect trade union rights, and immediately enter into negotiations with the union.

Click here to send your message!

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