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Labour ministry to mediate in dispute over casino layoffs

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Laid-off NagaWorld employees protest in Phnom Penh’s Chamkarmon district on December 21. YOUSOS APDOULRASHIM

Labour ministry to mediate in dispute over casino layoffs

Ministry of Labour and Vocational Training spokesman Heng Sour said the ministry would continue to mediate disputes between local integrated resort operator NagaWorld Ltd and its laid-off employees to find a solution, though the two parties can choose to settle it through the courts if there is no agreement.

Former NagaWorld employees demonstrated for a 10th consecutive day on December 27 in front of the company’s flagship casino complex, demanding the reinstatement of 365 dismissed employees and an end to alleged discrimination against union members after they were let go from their jobs in 2020, with the business citing the Covid-19 crisis as the reason behind the lay-offs.

Heng Sour told The Post on December 27 that under Cambodian labour laws, the ministry has the role of mediating and reconciling labour disputes between employers and employees but the reconciliation ultimately depends on whether the parties to the disputes agree to terms.

“In cases where there is no reconciliation among the parties, they have to file a complaint with the courts as a last resort. The ministry will continue to fulfil its duties within the scope of the labour laws. As of December 27, I don’t know the who received severance pay, but I know that each individual was offered some amount of compensation for their respective consideration,” he said.

In a press release on December 23, the ministry said it would continue to mediate and settle labour disputes between NagaWorld’s representative Mike Ngai and former staff represented by Chhim Sithor and their attorney, Ham Sunrith.

According to the press release, the two sides had not reached an agreement to the dispute. The company said it would not adjust the formula used to calculate severance pay for 85 workers who agreed to accept that pay and an end to their employment while foregoing all future claims against them as stated in the law. The company also refused to reinstate the workers, who continue to protest.

However, the representatives for the workers demanded a package settlement, requiring that the company reinstate the protesting workers first before calculating severance payment for those 85 workers, as required according to the law. This would increase the amount of severance those 85 workers were eligible to receive.

Chhim Sokhon, secretary of the Labour Rights Supported Union of Khmer Employees (LRSU) of NagaWorld, told The Post on December 27 that if a solution cannot be found through the arbitration council, all protesting workers would continue their non-violent demonstrations demanding a solution.

She added the workers expected the company to reinstate them and stop discriminating against the union and the reinstatement would also show that the company obeys the law.

“On the union side, we’ve opted to carry out a peaceful strike until there is a solution. We see that our dismissal is unusual because most of the 365 workers are union members, activists and even union leaders. It is obvious that the company wishes to destroy the union,” Sokhon said.

Moeun Tola, executive director of the Centre for Alliance of Labour and Human Rights (Central), said NagaWorld should end the dispute as soon as possible by reinstating them rather than continue to recruit new and inexperienced employees.

He said he also hoped that relevant institutions would speed up the resolution process and deal with the dispute as soon as possible for the employees to avoid further protests.

NagaWorld representatives could not be reached for comment on December 27.

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