Minister of Interior Sar Kheng has urged both the Ministry of Labour and Vocational Training and NagaWorld to resolve the former casino employees’ issues as soon as possible, saying that the dispute has dragged on for too long.
Sar Kheng was speaking while presiding over the ceremonial handover of vehicles to the border police battalions of the first, second and third divisions of the National Police on January 25.
Sar Kheng stated that the NagaWorld situation was a labour dispute, so the resolution committee under the labour ministry were the appropriate authorities for settling the matter while other relevant institutions such as the Phnom Penh Municipal Administration could help them find a compromise to end the conflict.
In addition to calling for a speedy resolution, Sar Kheng also urged government authorities to continue to be tolerant and to resolve labour disputes peacefully. In cases where the dispute cannot be settled otherwise, then it should be sent to the court to begin legal procedures.
“There are three parties involved in this matter. The first are the former employees who are protesting, the second is NagaWorld and the third is the government and its mediators.
“My request to all three parties is that they show more patience and find a way to solve the dispute as soon as possible. If all of the parties turn their backs on each other and refuse to negotiate, how will the dispute ever possibly end?
“If they can turn and face each other once again, they may be able to find some solution, but if they don’t then we don’t know when they’ll ever settle this matter to anyone’s satisfaction.
“I’ve always advised the municipal authorities as well as [labour minister] Ith Sam Heng to let our police forces try to facilitate negotiations between the two sides and if they fail then send it to the courts because the law clearly states how to deal with it appropriately,” Sar Kheng said.
Labour ministry spokesman Heng Sour told The Post on January 25 that the ministry was implementing Sar Kheng’s recommendations and trying to find a peaceful resolution to the matter.
Sour said that, for example, the labour ministry has invited the parties in conflict to the negotiating table five more times since the protests began on December 18, 2021.
He said the ministry was actively extending invitations to both the workers and the company to meet with each other under the guidance of the ministry and that they were ready to help move the process forward at any time.
The labour dispute between NagaWorld and the more than 300 employees whose contracts were terminated began back when the company laid-off over 1,000 of its 8,000 employees in 2020 and 2021, citing the pandemic-caused economic downturn.
The protesting employees are those who have yet to accept severance packages for their termination and claim that union activists were singled out for dismissal unfairly.
On January 25, two months after the protests first started, more than 200 former employees gathered once again near the company’s headquarters demanding the release of eight union leaders who are now being held in pre-trial detention for conspiracy charges.
The Council of the International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC) in Cambodia issued a statement on the arrests and charges against the NagaWorld union leaders. It said the detention of the activists demonstrated a lack of balance between the values of individual liberty and claims about social order made by the authorities.
The ITUC called for the release of the detained union activists and the implementation of an appropriate solution to the labour dispute.
However, at a press conference on January 4, Phnom Penh Municipal Court prosecutors San Sok Seiha and Seng Heang emphasised that the charges against the union leaders who were formerly employed by NagaWorld were due to the discovery of serious criminal behaviour that could not be overlooked.