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Talks between NagaWorld and workers union fail over wage dispute

Chhim Sithor Union president from Naga World. Photo Supplied

Mediation between NagaWorld and union members over wages and the suspension of a unionist has failed to reach a resolution, union and labor officials said on Wednesday, as a coalition of local rights groups condemned the casino operator of alleged workers’ rights violations.

NagaWorld representatives, the Khmer Employees’ Labour Rights Support Union of NagaWorld, and Labor Ministry officials met on Oct. 7 to try to resolve the ongoing dispute.

Chhim Sithar, president of the union, was suspended last month after defending an employee and member of Sithar’s union who was carrying a T-shirt that says “company grows; workers need living wage.”

The T-shirt, Sithar said, was part of the union’s campaign for higher wages, with employees planning to wear them before and after work.

The union in June submitted a petition with thumbprints of 4,000 employees to NagaWorld to ask for a raise. However, the company took three months to consider the request without reaching a decision, Sithar said.

After Sithar’s suspension, the union submitted another petition to NagaWorld with four demands: rehiring Sithar, better working conditions, the removal of Naga’s vice president of casino operations over alleged abusive behavior, and the requested raise.

Employees want the company to raise their salaries from about $243-$370 to at least $500 per month for staff in the gaming section, and from $191-$230 to at least $300 for staff in the hotel.

Khiev Savuth, deputy director of Labour Ministry’s labor dispute department, said on Wednesday that the mediation two days earlier had failed to reach any outcome.

“We will continue the process as both sides still have different opinions,” Savuth said, adding that he wasn’t yet sure what the next step would be.

Sithar said NagaWorld had not agreed to the union’s four demands and that she was concerned that the ministry would consider her case a personal dispute and take it to the court, instead of the Arbitration Council.

“According to legalities, there will not be another reconciliation process — they must proceed with the case at the Arbitration Council,” Sithar said.

Savuth, without specifically mentioning Sithar’s case, said that not all disputes are sent to Arbitration Council.

“If it is a labor dispute, it will be sent to the Arbitration Council, but if it is a personal dispute, it will be sent to court,” Savuth said, refusing to say whether Sithar’s case was a labor or personal dispute.

An official at the Arbitration Council, who only identified herself on the phone as Nita, said on Wednesday that the labor dispute resolution center had not yet received Sithar’s case.

Sithar said employees want higher salaries because living costs are rising, and because NagaWorld is making large profits.

“The company is listed on the Hong Kong stock market and they announce their profits every year, so we know much money the company makes,” Sithar said. “NagaWorld made over $1.4 billion, and net profit after all expenses was $390 million,” Sithar said.

“The union understands that there have also been rises of expenses for employees and that their salaries can’t keep up,” she added.

In a statement dated Sunday, a coalition of 24 local human rights groups condemned NagaWorld for Sitha’s suspension.

“We condemn the decision of management to suspend the employment of union president, Ms. Chhim Sithar, without just cause after she exercised her fundamental rights and professional independence as a representative of approximately four thousand workers to demand better working conditions and reasonable wage increases for staffs working at NagaWorld,” they said in statement.

NagaWorld didnt respond to email seeking comment on Wednesday.