As Talks Fail, Naga Workers Receive Termination Notices, Compensation

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Seven NagaWorld union representatives hold posters in front of the Labor Ministry gate after submitting a petition contesting the company’s mass layoffs on June 8, 2021. (Tran Techseng/VOD)
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Some NagaWorld casino workers who rejected voluntary termination packages — arguing that the company’s dismissals illegally targeted union activists — have now been fired and had thousands of dollars wired to their accounts.

The Phnom Penh casino and hotel publicly disclosed cost-cutting layoffs early last month, though workers were told of more than 1,300 impending dismissals in April. Union leaders at the company have been among those targeted in the layoffs, leading to accusations of union-busting and a petition of more than 2,000 thumbprints and mediation with the Labor Ministry.

Workers have spoken of wanting to stand by the union, even as others took the compensation packages on offer amid economic hardships.

Chhun Sokha, the union’s vice president, said a second round of negotiations between the union and company at the Labor Ministry had failed on June 30.

Shortly after, employees received notices via a company app that their contracts were terminated.

She did not know how many workers had received the notice, but only about 300 workers continued to resist the layoffs alongside the union, she said. About 600 joined the union’s petition last month.

Sokha said the union’s case was still being taken up to the Arbitration Council.

“We all know that our staff is facing a financial crisis, so if they see the money, they might not be able to control their emotions,” Sokha said.

Rith Navy, a 41-year-old gaming table supervisor, said she had initially turned down an offer of $10,000 to leave, but had now received $5,500.

A letter sent to her says she is “impacted by the Rationalization Plan” and her employment contract, which started February 2002, will be terminated as of July 1. She will receive compensation for unpaid salary, annual leave, payment in lieu of three months’ notice and outstanding seniority payments, it says. It thanks her for her “past contribution to the Branch” and “wishes you well in your future endeavours.”

Navy, however, said she would continue to resist the layoffs. If the company was closing down and declaring bankruptcy she could accept the situation, but it was in the process of building a new casino, Naga 3, she said. The company also made over $100 million in profits last year despite the pandemic.

Navy added that it would be hard for her to find new work.

“I am 41 years old and if I go to work in the factory, they will not accept [me]. For young people, they can always find a job, even a job in a factory, they will always accept them. But I am 41 years old. They will not,” she said.

Seng Nita, who said she worked for 13 years as an inspector for dealers at NagaWorld, also received compensation even though she had earlier turned it down.

“It is too unfair, we did not volunteer, did not agree, and suddenly they stopped and dropped the money,” Nita said. “But I did not dare to withdraw it, did not dare to touch it, did not dare because I do not [want to be] involved with this money. Because we did not agree. Just seeing the money was beyond unexpected.”

NagaWorld human resources officer Hay Voleap said he was too busy to comment.

Labor Ministry spokesperson Heng Sour said any dispute between an employer and employees that the ministry could not resolve can be sent to the Arbitration Council.

“I can generally say that every enterprise can reduce or expand its staff depending on its economic and business situation, as long as the reduction is in accordance with the law as there is a clear reason that is informed to the staff,” Sour said.

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