NagaWorld workers are being offered over $1,000 in compensation for layoffs, they said, with some accepting due to financial difficulties and others rejecting the offer saying they want to stand in solidarity with their union.
The Phnom Penh casino has begun its process of firing 1,329 workers, which it says is due to declining revenue, according to the union. But the union disputes the layoffs, alleging they target long-term organized workers and are unnecessary — despite Covid-19 disruptions — due to the company’s more than $100 million in profits last year.
Roeun Sreyneang, a sanitation worker at NagaWorld for more than eight years, said she agreed to take $2,500 in compensation as she had a $4,000 bank loan, was two months behind on rent, and hadn’t been able to find other work.
The 29-year-old, an active union member, said she should be owed more according to seniority calculations, but felt she could not turn down the money.
“If I had continued to reject it over a long time, I would not have the money to pay others, and now I can’t find any job — just staying at home so far,” Sreyneang said. “I did not have the ability to find [money] to pay the bank, [so I] accepted to take the money. [I] do not know what to do.”
Sreyneang said more than 30 other sanitation workers in her team who joined a strike in January last year to support suspended union leader Chhim Sithar were all notified that they were part of the layoffs.
“If the company [says it] cuts them because of Covid’s impact on its finances, it’s not true. In short, this is just their excuse. If they think like that, all staff in my place would be fired, not just the half of them who participated,” she said.
Phorn Sreymey, 24, a room attendant, said she also accepted an offer of $1,270 to be laid off. Her house was in a former Covid-19 red zone, and her husband and mother work at a market — the family had no income and could not leave the house for nearly two months, she said.
Sreymey added that she was told if she didn’t accept the money, she would still lose her job but with less compensation.
“I was afraid I couldn’t get it if I didn’t agree, because the business place of my mother and my husband is at a market. So as we know it has been closed, and my house was blocked for nearly two months because it was in a red zone. If we don’t accept it, it affects our daily lives, having no money to buy food,” she said.
However, Long Heang, a 26-year-old slot attendant, said he continued to oppose the company’s layoffs and demanded that the decision be dropped.
He said the company should not abandon the employees who helped it earn hundreds of millions of dollars every year when they were struggling to find work. Instead, the company should provide financial support to employees during the casino’s suspension to help them pay rent and utilities, he said.
“If we look at the reality, the company has a profit of more than 100 million, and we do not know or we do not understand why the company has to cut all employees who are facing a crisis of unemployment amid Covid,” Heang said.
Another worker, room attendant But Makara, who has been employed by the company since 2017, said he had also refused the buyout despite financial problems, bank debt and unemployment.
The 34-year-old single father said that he would continue to advocate with the union.
“We want to have the union in the company to help take care of our employees. That is an important point for the next generations. If I remain, the newcomers later won’t be oppressed like my generation. We have been exploited vey much. That is why I still have agreed not to take that money,” Makara said.
NagaWorld chief operations officer Mike Ngai and company representative Long Sovichea could not be reached for comment.
Labor Ministry spokesperson Heng Sour said in a message: “[The ministry will] continue to resolve [the NagaWorld layoff dispute] based on labor dispute reconciliation.”
Sithar, the NagaWorld union president, said that as of Wednesday more than 400 workers had received dismissal notices from the company, all of them activists and members of the union.
“More than 100 of them have already agreed with the company to take the package, which is not fully legal. And as I stated in the statement, they were under economic pressure, so they were forced to take it, and our union could not stop them,” Sithar said.
NagaWorld’s 3,000-strong union said in a statement on Tuesday that many of the employees who have been told they would be laid off were active unionists who were a part of recruiting and organizing events.
NagaCorp reported a net profit of $102 million in 2020 despite the Covid-19 crisis, according to company disclosures, down from more than $521 million in 2019.