The Ministry of Labour and Vocational Training remains unable to find a solution to the labour dispute between NagaWorld and its dismissed employees, while civil society organisations call on the ministry to end its role as mediator and for the use of existing legal mechanisms related to the International Labour Organisation (ILO) convention.

According to the ministry, negotiations have reached an impasse as the workers’ representatives continue to insist that the integrated casino resort reinstate their positions, a demand the company is unwilling to accept. Both sides agreed to meet again on March 22, as this will give them time to reconsider the possibility of mutual concessions that could end the dispute.

The ministry noted that the 24th attempt at mediation occurred in a meeting last weekend. The meeting was chaired by Tes Rukhaphal, secretary-general of the ministry’s Committee for the Resolution of Strikes. The meeting was attended by employee representatives Ry Sovandy, Hay Sopheap and Sun Srey Pich and NagaWorld representatives Dy Seiha and Ros Bunleng.

“We urge the two sides to remain calm and demonstrate a mutual understanding, and to work closely with authorities in maintaining public order.

“According to legal procedures, if the dispute cannot be resolved by mediation, the case will be referred to court,” it said.

Soeng Sen Karuna, spokesman for rights group ADHOC, said the ongoing labour dispute has been unresolved for more than a year.

He said NagaWorld appeared unwilling to make any concessions and that the dismissals appeared to target independent union representatives, with the goal of replacing them with a new union that was decided on by the company.

In order to end the dispute, he suggested that the company allow the protesters to return to work, otherwise it would be impossible to find a solution.

“I think that at this point, the ministry should not be acting as mediator. It has held many meetings, but they have been fruitless. It should employ the existing legal mechanisms related to the ILO convention to deal with the company, as the current process is protracted and has been drawn out for too long,” he said.

According to Sen Karuna, the delay in resolving the dispute has affected the livelihoods of the protesters, many of whom have been forced to accept the settlements offered by the company in order to meet their living expenses.

“If the company is trying to eliminate unions that work for the benefit of employees, that would be an even bigger concern, as other companies may try to violate workers’ rights as well,” he added.

As of February 4, a total of 265 of the 373 former NagaWorld employees had accepted the compensation packages offered by NagaWorld to end the dispute.