Siem Reap Cultural Village Staff Protest for Wages, Bargaining Deal

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Workers from the Cambodian Cultural Village tourist attraction in Siem Reap City protest in front of the center on August 24, 2020. (Supplied by worker representative Lim Sopha)

Staff at a Siem Reap cultural tourism complex negotiated with management and provincial labor officials on Tuesday, a worker representative said, a day after more than 40 employees protested outside the attraction calling for an end to salary cuts and a bargaining agreement.

Rith Simol, a 36-year-old traditional dance trainer at the Cambodian Cultural Village in Siem Reap City, said workers on Monday continued protests that began on August 14, demanding the performing arts and entertainment center’s employers sign a collective bargaining agreement and reinstate five workers to their positions in the village’s art office, where workers said they were able to make requests and raise concerns. 

Amid the global economic downturn and slumping tourism sector resulting from the Covid-19 pandemic, the company has reduced staff wages by 20 percent since March and took away a $25 monthly food stipend, Simol said. 

“We are all determined to protest until we get a solution,” he added.

Company representatives told local media that they intended to negotiate in good faith and had made adjustments in order to keep over 300 workers employed.

The Cambodian Cultural Village is a 210,000-square-meter complex on Siem Reap’s National Road 6 that offers traditional dance performances, miniature versions of famous buildings and temples like Angkor Wat and the Royal Palace, and a museum. It also includes 13 model villages, showing different cultural heritages of the country.

Lim Sopha, the former head of the art office who was removed from his position but is still working with the Cultural Village, told VOD on Monday that the company had not responded to any of the workers’ demands.

On Tuesday afternoon, Sopha said he was still in a negotiation meeting with management.

Another Cultural Villager performer, Sok Sreymom, 36, said provincial labor authorities had tried to mediate a compromise since workers began protesting before the rescheduled Khmer New Year holiday last week, but they continued to demonstrate on Monday because the dispute had not been resolved.

“[The company] has not found any solution for us,” the singer said. “If there was a solution, we would not come to sit and shout like this.” 

The Cultural Village’s director, Lim Sopheak, and deputy director, Touch Socheat, could not be reached for comment on Monday. On Tuesday, Bun Khim, the company’s chair, referred questions to an administrative employee who directed a reporter back to Sopheak. He declined to comment.

However, Sopheak and Socheat told government-aligned media outlet Fresh News on Sunday that the firm had no intention of ignoring workers’ demands, and that negotiations were ongoing. 

They said the company offered to pay 80 percent of staff’s wages and reduced work schedules from eight to six hours a day in order to keep more than 300 workers in their jobs while international tourism has declined due to the global pandemic. The pair said all workers had accepted the deal except for about 40 workers who were protesting. 

Im Chamroeun, deputy director of the Siem Reap Provincial Labor Department, declined to comment on Monday, saying he was busy mediating the dispute.

(Translated and edited from the original article on VOD Khmer)

Note: This report was produced with support from the Rosa Luxemburg Foundation under the financial support of the German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development.

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