Striking NagaWorld workers pushed back at the casino company’s position that losses in the first half of 2021 justified mass layoffs, pointing to the three years of profits preceding the pandemic-induced slowdown and the ongoing construction of NagaWorld 3.
The terminated workers have been protesting against the layoffs and other labor rights violations at NagaWorld casinos for 42 days — a strike that has been ruled illegal by a court and resulted in the arrest of nine senior union members, including president Chhim Sithar.
Workers held a press conference on Friday at the Sunway Hotel in Phnom Penh in response to a NagaWorld statement released Monday on Fresh News. The company said losses reported in 2021 has necessitated the termination of staffers and claimed that the layoffs were not targeted at union members.
At the press conference, workers said around 80 percent of the 1,329 workers laid off were union members, including activists and senior staff. They said firing senior staff while retaining recent recruits was a violation of the Labor Law.
“And we want to make it clear to the public that NagaWorld is not trying to find a solution, but trying to distort the truth in order to avoid responsibility,” said Chim Rotha, who was speaking on behalf of the workers.
The workers released a statement where they countered NagaWorld’s arguments that compensation and severance packages were in line with legal requirements. It also opposed the casino’s assertion that it had always supported unions, and disagreed with the court’s decision classifying the strike as illegal.
The statement added that the company’s past profits were earned through the work of the laid-off workers, and that the construction of NagaWorld 3 was testament to the large profits.
Rotha said the workers were also under constant monitoring from undercover police officers who were constantly photographing them and making threats.
“Some people in civilian clothes even try to cause trouble by using bad words and try to provoke us to cause trouble,” Rotha said.
The press conference was mostly attended by terminated workers who routinely burst into applause when they liked what a speaker said.
Negotiations have reached a deadlock. The Labor Ministry and NagaWorld have asked workers to accept compensation packages. Workers have said they will return to the negotiating table only after the release of eight union leaders still detained.
“There is no will to resolve this dispute, but the will to threaten, intimidate and arrest union representatives to prosecute and detain them. I see that this will not finish easily,” said Seng Vannarith, who worked at NagaWorld for 25 years before being fired.