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NagaWorld casino staff roll dice on strike

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Workers employed by NagaWorld strike to demand better working conditions, Monday, Feb. 25, 2013. Photograph: Vireak Mai/Phnom Penh Post

Most of the usually bustling card tables at the capital’s NagaWorld casino were empty yesterday as about 800 workers rallied outside, demanding the reinstatement of sacked workers and better conditions.

With fresh grievances coupled with demands dating back four years, almost 90 per cent of the popular venue’s casino section walked off the job to join a strike that began with a small number of food and beverage staff on Friday, leaving their managers to deal cards yesterday on just a few tables.

“All the workers are outside protesting,” one employee, who did want to be named, said. “They have a problem.”

Those who walked off the job and gathered behind barricades at the west side of the casino’s front entrance, in fact, said they had many problems.

They called for their bosses to reinstate two food and beverage workers and two VIP section workers fired “without reason”. They demanded three managers who had “misbehaved” and were rude to staff be sacked, going as far as publicly naming them on placards that were waved around in the presence of watchful security guards.

The strikers also called for a minimum wage in the casino to be raised to $150 per month and for their bosses to honour Arbitration Council decisions dating back years involving sacked union leaders and unpaid wages.

“We see that the company has no intention of seeking a solution, but has just threatened to fire staff who take part in the protest,” said Chhim Sithar, deputy president of the in-house independent Rights Labour Supported Union of Khmer Employees of Naga Resorts. “We will continue to protest whenever we don’t get any solution.”

Sok Narith, vice-president of The Cambodian Tourism and Service Workers Federation (CTSWF), which the casino union is part of, said up to 90 per cent of casino staff had walked out.

“Their managers have been working as card dealers,” he said.

Moeun Tola, head of the labour program at the Community Legal Education Center, said he wasn’t surprised the workers were striking, given NagaWorld’s history of violating their rights to organise and collectively bargain.

“In 2009, 14 [union reps] involved in the negotiation team for a collective bargaining agreement were dismissed,” he said, adding this had come after management and unions had failed to agree on an annual wage increase. “All negotiations were dismissed and no one was reinstated.”

Vong Sovann, deputy secretary-general of the Ministry of Social Affairs’ committee for the settlement of strikes and demonstrations, said he had received a complaint from CTSWF last week, and would organise negotiations between the union and management for today.

“The actual procedure for dealing with this issue is to go to the place of protest to negotiate,” he said. “If this is not agreed to, we will invite them for discussions at the ministry.”

A request made in person for an interview with a human resources manager at NagaWorld named on the strikers’ signs was denied yesterday. Calls to the casino’s management were not returned, while emails were not responded to.

To contact the reporter on this story: Chhay Channyda at channyda.chhay@phnompenhpost.com

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