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Former Shell employees asking for interest on retirement pay

Phnom Penh Post (Cambodia): Former Shell employees asking for interest on retirement pay

Friday 26 August 2005

By Vong Sokheng

Former employees of Shell oil company are demanding $1 million in interest on retirement benefits recently awarded to Cambodia staff members who worked for the company before 1975.

The staff of Societe Shell du Cambodge (SSC) were forced to stop working when the country was overtaken by the Khmer Rouge in 1975.

In November 2001 SSC’s modern-day equivalent, Shell International Limited, paid retirement benefits totaling $250,000 to 38 former employees, said Bun Khem, one of the claimants.

A further $109,710 was paid in March last year to cover long-overdue retirement benefits owed to 35 other former staff.

Now the 73 former employees are demanding that Shell’s London-based operations pay 10 percent interest on their retirement benefits, Khem said.

“According to the legal basis, the company has to pay 10 percent as an interest rate of the retirement benefits, which the company was not able to pay after 1975,” Khem said. “I think that the SSC has tried to cheat our money.”

He estimated the interest owed between 1975 and 2003 was about $1 million.

The action comes in response to a similar claim in Vietnam in which Royal Dutch-Shell Group of Companies paid $2 million to nearly 600 Vietnamese workers who lost their jobs without severance pay when the oil company’s Vietnam operations were taken by the communist government.

“Our case is similar to the one already applied in Vietnam, and the same legal basis of operating should clearly consist of interest [paid on retirement funds],” Khem said.

The Cambodian claimants tried to push their request through the British Ambassador in September last year, but were unsuccessful, Khem said.

Robert Pritt, senior legal counsel of the Shell company in London, did not reply to e-mails.

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