Cambodian Journalists Alliance Association

NagaWorld strike continues as second day of negotiations provides few answers

NagaWorld employees continue their strike in front of the hotel-casino complex in Phnom Penh. Photo taken on December 22, 2021. CamboJA/ Pring Samrang
NagaWorld employees continue their strike in front of the hotel-casino complex in Phnom Penh. Photo taken on December 22, 2021. CamboJA/ Pring Samrang

On Wednesday evening, NagaWorld union members debated continuing their strike as a second day of negotiations yielded little outcome for the casino complex’s ongoing labor conflict.

Union leaders first met on Tuesday at City Hall with representatives of both the company and the municipal authority to demand the reinstatement of 365 employees laid off as part of the casino giant’s mass-downsizing earlier this year. The representatives of all parties resumed their talks on Wednesday at the Labour Ministry but remained deadlocked by the end of the day.

Both the ministry and City Hall have urged the strikers to end their movement. Sun Sreypich, a NagaWorld union activist, explained such a move would require a vote among members.

“The ministry told us to dismiss our strike in order to have a mechanism (to deal). But the union does not have any right to make a decision besides bringing the City Hall officials’ word to the workers,” Sreypich said.

At about 6 p.m. Wednesday, the NagaWorld union members were still holding a meeting to discuss the potential future of the strike when contacted by a reporter.

The union has submitted a set of nine demands, with the most important urging the reinstatement of the 365 holdouts and proper severance pay for those who were laid off. The unionists are also demanding the company provide seniority bonuses and remuneration in accordance with the law for this year and last, as well as an additional 7% of the current base wage to all workers to meet the inflation of market prices. Among other issues, the nine demands also include a call for NagaWorld to stop exploiting workers under the premise of internships.

A statement from City Hall stated the union representatives agreed to create a list of the 365 workers separated among two groups. The first of those would be workers who have agreed to leave their jobs at NagaWorld and accept severance pay, but request their compensation in accordance with the Labor Law. The second group would include those workers who want to resume their jobs. 

The union has found that, among the total 365 workers, only 48 ​have clearly agreed to leave and accept severance pay in accordance with the Labor Law, while 65 did not respond. The rest are still holding out in hopes of getting their jobs back.

In a brief update Wednesday afternoon, the Labour Ministry announced that one of the workers had agreed on a compensation package and will receive their severance pay on Thursday.

However, the union has stated that the requested list for the others would need some information only NagaWorld itself would have, requiring cooperation from the casino company. The City Hall requested the company provide the list of 365 workers for verification from the Labour Ministry to calculate severance payments.

Beyond severance and onto the question of reinstating laid-off workers, the NagaWorld representatives will first have to consult with the company’s board of directors.

In a statement on the negotiations, the City Hall called on the workers to “continue to be patient by stopping illegal expression by giving time to the competent ministries and institutions to continue to mediate and resolve this labor dispute for both parties based on the spirit of understanding, tolerance and in accordance with the existing law.”

But according to a separate joint statement issued Monday by representatives of civil society organizations, unions and other groups promoting Cambodian labor and human rights, the NagaWorld strikers are exercising their basic rights in accordance with laws governing labor and unions. 

City officials and NagaWorld company representatives could not be reached for comment.

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