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Banyan Tree workers await the opportunity to return to work on Sunday

Laguna Dispute Latest: Back to Work As Usual

Sunday, February 8, 2009
Resorts Street Dispute Over For Now

A SECOND dispute that appeared to erupt at Laguna Phuket after the initial long protest has turned out to be based on misinformation.

Staff who arrived at the Banyan Tree to begin work this morning said they were told that the resort was closing for four days.

However, senior management said later this was not true, and that the resort complex was returning to work as normal.

A crowd of staff built up outside the resort before resuming work, causing the misunderstanding.

Occupancy at the Banyan Tree was at 60 percent, a spokesman said, and guests were arriving as normal today.

The whole Laguna Phuket complex was also functioning normally again on Sunday after the lengthy protest over pay and bonuses.

Meanwhile, the dispute will be the subject of further talks between the Governor, Dr Preecha Ruangjan, senior police, management, unions and the Labor Office in one month's time.

A statement issued by the Executive Chairman of Laguna Resorts and Hotels, K. P. Ho, said that the resort regarded the ''illegal blockade'' by less than 150 union members in the initial dispute very seriously.

It had come at a time when the resort complex was already feeling the effects of the international economic downturn and political uncertainty in Thailand.

It is believed the statement was issued yesterday afternoon, before talks ended the street protest.

On Sunday afternoon, Laguna Phuket issued the following statement:

''Laguna Resorts & Hotels Plc advises that as of 2am today the illegal assembly blockading roads into its Laguna Phuket resort complex has dispersed and all resort entrance roads are fully open. The six Laguna Phuket hotels are returning to normal operations.

''During the afternoon of Thursday 5 February 2009, an illegal assembly of approximately 150 staff, representing less than five percent of the total staff of over 4000 employees, commenced blockading the roadways into Laguna Phuket.

''This action resulted from several Laguna Phuket hotel unions not accepting the year end bonus awarded to employees. The award of a two-week bonus by the Company reflected the downturn in the tourism industry in Phuket and Thailand in the second half of 2008 following the closures of the Phuket and Bangkok airports, as well as the global economic downturn.

''Because the Unions did not follow grievance procedures prescribed by Labour Court regulations, and furthermore committed potentially criminal offences by blocking public roads as well as infringing on private property, Laguna management had no choice but to consider the union disruption as an illegal assembly.

''Management of Laguna Phuket reported the illegal assembly, blockade of public roads and infringement of private property to the Phuket police and provincial government, and requested their urgent assistance to maintain access to public roads for Laguna Phuket staff, resort guests and other users of the roads, and the situation has now been resolved.''

In the long earlier message to management and staff, K. P. Ho said that management would do its best to resolve the dispute but the resorts could not be held to ransom by a group representing a small proportion of staff.

Resort managements throughout the region and Thailand are watching the Laguna Phuket dispute closely because many of the issues apply to virtually every section of the industry.

The message from Executive Chairman Ho Kwon Ping, issued while the dispute was still going on, reads as follows:

To all my colleagues,

As you all know, Laguna Phuket is facing and additional crisis, on top of all the problems caused by the political problems in Thailand as well as global recession. I refer to the illegal blockade of all access roads to our resort by less than 150 union members because of unhappiness over the bonus payments this year.

First, you must all know that we believe this global crisis is very serious and will get worse. Some hotels may be paying a slightly higher bonus but we have decided to be very cautious.

You must all have trust that if and when the situation improves, you will of course be rewarded for your commitment.

Laguna Phuket intends to be the best long-term employer in Phuket. We have demonstrated this in the past and we will continue to do so - through good and bad times.

Second, you must also know that we cannot compromise with the few unreasonable union members who are holding our entire resort to ransom. It is not a matter of money but of principle.

The union leaders, who do not represent more than five percent of all our loyal and dedicated associates, did not even follow the procedures prescribed by the Thai Labour Court for grievance resolution before declaring a strike. They simply issued an ultimatum and then walked off their jobs to block the roads.

We therefore do not consider this to be a strike but an illegal assembly. Furthermore, the illegal assembly has broken the law by blocking public roads.

Management of Laguna Phuket has reported the illegal assembly, blockade of public roads and infringement of private property to the Phuket police and provincial government, and requested their urgent assistance to maintain access to public roads for Laguna Phuket staff, resort guests and other users of the roads.

The government and police have promised to help. We are still waiting for them to open the roads.

While we wait, management of LRH are trying all other possible means to resolve the issue but without compromising our principle, which is very simple: we cannot allow the livelihoods of our thousands of associates, the welfare of our hundreds of guests, and the financial health of our company, to be held at ransom by a handful of people who represent no-one but themselves and who act illegally and unreasonably.

Your loyalty to Laguna Phuket at this time of great crisis is profoundly appreciated by me and all my colleagues. We know you are suffering and we deeply regret your spirit of sacrifice.

As we have done before in other crises, we will get through this one again. If our hotels have to close for lack of guests and staff and supplies, we have no choice. The fate of Laguna Phuket is now in the hands of a few illegal rabble-rousers and the government, whose job it is to make sure all public roads are open.

The management of Laguna Phuket are working round the clock to resolve this crisis. Your respective General Managers should be in touch with you through your HR departments to mobilise you at short notice to return to work.

I urge those of you who love Laguna Phuket as we do, should show your disapproval of what the illegal demonstrators are doing, in what ways you can. Expressions of support for Laguna Phuket management is an effective way to counter the small group of people bent on destroying Laguna Phuket.

We will emerge from this crisis, stronger and more united than before, with your support.

Ho Kwon Ping

Executive Chairman
Laguna Resorts and Hotels

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Friday February 23, 2024
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