Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Dispute over casino layoffs leads to union strike threat

Dispute over casino layoffs leads to union strike threat

Dispute over casino layoffs leads to union strike threat

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NagaWorld has blamed the economic crisis for 14 layoffs in February, but employees contend that the company is pushing an anti-union agenda.

Photo by: SAM RITH

Former NagaWorld Hotel and Casino employee Sam Molita speaks during a press conference Saturday at which unions threatened to strike if she and 13 others were not rehired by the company.

THE Cambodian Labour Confederation (CLC) on Saturday threatened to strike if the NagaWorld Hotel and Casino did not reinstate 14 employees who were laid off in February. 

Sok Narith, the head of the hotel's 1,000-member union, which is part of the CLC, said during a press conference that union representatives had been unable to get NagaWorld executives to negotiate with them despite repeated attempts, thereby necessitating a strike threat.

"This shows that the leaders of NagaWorld are intent not to have unions' rights and freedoms in the workplace," said Sok Narith, who was among the laid-off workers.

NagaWorld executives have blamed the economic crisis for the firings, though a press release distributed Saturday by the Cambodia Tourism and Service Workers Federation (CTSWF), which participated in the press conference, said the firings resulted from a dispute over annual bonuses.

The press release went on to argue that the executives' refusal to enter into negotiations "strengthens workers' belief that the case is clearly a management tactic to destroy an officially recognised union".

Along with the CTSWF and the CLC, the hotel union took the case to the Arbitration Council Foundation, an independent body that last month refused to consider the reinstatement demand because workers accepted compensation when they were laid off.

This shows that the leaders of nagaworld are intent not to have unions’ rights...

Sok Lor, executive director of the Arbitration Council, said arbitrators ruled in favour of workers only when their contracts had been violated.

Hay Voleap, deputy manager for human resources at NagaWorld, said Sunday that NagaWorld welcomed the decision of the Arbitration Council and had no plan to reinstate the workers.  

Several international unions also participated in Saturday's press conference, including the Hong Kong-based Asia Monitor Resource Centre and the International Union of Food, Agricultural, Hotel, Restaurant, Catering Tobacco and Allied Workers' Association.

Sok Narith said 65 percent of NagaWorld employees were affiliated with the hotel's union, adding that he believed all would participate in the strike.

Ath Thorn, president of the CLC, said Saturday that the confederation totalled more than 60,000 workers from the garment, tourism, construction and service sectors. He also said he believed all members would participate in the strike.

Waiting for a response

The union heads did not specify how long they would wait for NagaWorld to respond to their demands. Sok Narith said the unions would wait until they received some sort of response from NagaWorld.

Phnom Penh Deputy Governor Pa Socheatvong asked in a letter Thursday for the union to postpone the press conference, a move he said would allow municipal officials "to negotiate with the company in order to solve the problem for the union".

Hay Voleap said Sunday the company had not been approached by municipal officials. Pa Socheatvong did not answer calls Sunday. 

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