August 4, 2011

Carlsberg Beer Promoters On Strike in Cambodia

[ScandAsia.com]

More than 30 beer promoters have been striking since Monday July 25, accusing Angkor brewer Cambrew of refusing to pay overtime despite a July 7 ruling by the Arbitration Council that it was legally required to do so, according to The Phnom Penh Post

Carlsberg has said it is investigating a strike by Angkor beer promoters, who yesterday vowed to continue in their bid for fair treatment.

“We’ve had no response from the company so the strike will continue,” Ou Tep Phally, vice-president of Cambodian Food and Service Workers’ Federation, said to newspaper on July 31.

The women, who usually promote the brand in restaurants and nightspots, have been handing out leaflets calling for the public to boycott it instead. Beer promoter Sim Phan said strikers planned to burn tyres in front of the company’s headquarters on Norodom Boulevard today.

Cambrew has repeatedly declined to comment, but Carlsberg, which owns half of Cambrew, said it was investigating. “The current situation is under investigation by the local management team and Carlsberg Indochina,” Carlsberg’s vice-president for communications in Asia, David Fang, said in an email last week.

The Hong Kong-based executive referred further questions to staff at the company’s Hanoi office, but they were on vacation.

Ian Lubek, a Canadian academic who has researched “beer girls” in Cambodia for 12 years, said: “Company directors are often oblivious to what is going on in the field.

“Headquarters set quotas for how much beer should be sold in the region and rarely consider employees’ issues.”

He also said companies paid low wages to beer promoters because their resulting vulnerability made them more attractive to customers.

“They knowingly create an economically coercive situation because they know that male customers will be more likely to drink their brand if it is served by women who are perceived as economically vulnerable targets,” he said.

Ou Tep Phally said she was looking forward to the opportunity to tell Carlsberg about the working conditions of its female beer promoters in Cambodia.

She said she also wanted to tell the company that its partner here has cheated its employees out of overtime wages for 14 years.

Carlsberg’s investigation has yet to include interviews with the women who promote its brands here, she said.

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