THE STAFF at Club Med on the Kata foreshore have won a five percent pay rise after negotiations between the resort's union and management.
Club Med is unusual in almost every respect when compared to other resorts on Phuket. It is all-inclusive, like the new Rixos Premium in Khao Lak, and it also has a different pay structure.
The 315 staff are not paid a service charge, but they do earn extra money depending on the occupancy rate.
The pay rise comes as official Ministry of Commerce figures show a drop in the island's cost of living.
Vijit Dasantad is President of the Phuket Federation of Hotel and Service Labor. He is also Manager, Coordination, at Club Med.
The 320-room resort is 23 years old and the union began just one year after the resort.
Club Med provides a broad blend of day and night activities that are part of the cost of a room, with meals included.
But big changes are taking place in the Club Med philosophy. Once, there were no television sets, no telephones in the rooms, no computers, and no air-con.
It was considered to be a ''natural'' place to stay.
Now, Khun Vijit said, advanced resorts were able to still be environmentally attractive, but to also have modern technology.
Club Med now has television sets, air-con, telephones, and wi-fi Internet connections in its rooms.
''Our guests need to feel comfortable,'' he said. ''Some do not want to give up their connections to modern-day living the way people once wanted to get away from it all.''
The anti-government protest that blockaded Phuket International Airport over three days in late August was a disastrous turning point, he said.
Until then, the recovery from the 2004 tsunami had been consistent.
But the blockade forced Club Med to divert incoming member-guests to Bali, Khun Vijit said.
Ironically, Phuket resort unionists were involved in the blockade.
Khun Vijit said the federation had 2500 members and at Club Med, 176 staff were members, paying five baht a month.
Union leaders planned a large-scale meeting in early December on Phuket to discuss the global economic crisis and how to minimise its effect on union members.
Unusually, all Club med staff are paid extra, depending on occupancy rates.
Up to 50 percent occupancy, staff are paid an extra 4500 baht a month; up to 70 percent, 6500 baht; 71-80 percent, 7500 baht; 81 percent and up 10,000 baht.
Year-round, Club Med usually has high occupancy rates but in November, the resort has been running at 60-70 percent.
Worldwide, Club Med has moved from being a getaway party destination for young single adults two decades ago to being a family-oriented brand that caters for the same generation, who now have families.
The Governor, Preecha Ruangjan, visited Club Med on Tuesday and listened to an explanation of how the resort differed from many of its Phuket rivals.
Ministry of Commerce figures show the cost of living index for Phuket dipped from 127.6 in September to 126.5 in October.
The index has been trending down since July after rising through the first six months of 2008.
A fall in the price of petrol by 11.1 percent has largely reversed the upward trend.