Union Files Petition Against NagaWorld Layoffs With 2,000 Thumbprints

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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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Seven NagaWorld union representatives submitted a petition with 2,049 thumbprints — from employees both employed and newly jobless — to the Labor Ministry on Tuesday, contesting NagaWorld’s decision to lay off more than 15 percent of its staff.

More than 600 terminated union members signed the petition, with the remaining thumbprints coming from other employees, said Chun Sokha, the union’s vice president, outside the Labor Ministry.

The petition includes five demands for NagaCorp: drop the plan for layoffs; allow workers who have been laid off to return to work as normal if they want once the complex reopens; properly compensate workers who agreed to leave the company; continue to pay seniority benefits to workers; and properly implement Covid-19 prevention and response measures as specified by the Health Ministry and World Health Organization.

The union — which union president Chhim Sithar said on Tuesday had more than 4,000 members before the layoffs — contends that Naga Corp’s decision to lay off 1,329 employees is an attempt to quash the union, as the three top union leaders and dozens of key organizers were retrenched.

“What happened at NagaWorld is not a small matter, and it is related to an attempt to uproot the union’s voice, which is the same as NagaWorld did in 2009,” Sokha said, referring to the company’s decision to fire 14 union-connected workers in the wake of the global financial crisis at that time.

She said workers who did not oppose the layoff packages were tired of working for the company after it reduced employees’ shifts from late 2020 until the company closed in March. Some workers took the compensation package because they needed money urgently — and wanted to avoid threats from NagaWorld management.

“This is an act that shows that NagaWorld does not respect human rights as well as labor rights in our kingdom of Cambodia,” she said.

Though union members have warned of the impending layoffs since April, NagaWorld’s Hong Kong-listed parent company, NagaCorp, alerted its shareholders for the first time on Monday that it had launched a cost-cutting program that “will impact some of our employees.” It did not disclose how many individuals would be laid off, but said that “a majority number” had agreed to termination packages.

In the same disclosure, NagaCorp said it would issue $200 million in “additional notes,” or loans used to generate working capital.

NagaWorld previously said in other disclosures that it had not fired workers through 2020 as a “responsible corporate citizen.” Parent company NagaCorp said it employs 8,371, mostly in Cambodia, paying $105 million in salaries — which includes $28 million paid to the corporation’s directors.

Sokha said a ministry officer received the petition and told the union representatives he would contact them later.

“This is a case of violating labor rights as well as human rights, for we are given the right to represent workers and have a registration of that recognition from the Ministry too,” she said. “We hope that the Ministry of Labor will intervene in this matter in accordance with the law. As long as Cambodia has a labor law, I believe this will be resolved positively.”

VOD has reached out to NagaCorp for comment.

Labor Ministry spokesman Heng Sour said the ministry had received the union’s petition, and ministry officials would resolve the labor dispute at NagaWorld in accordance with Cambodian laws. At this stage, the ministry could not prejudge which side is right or wrong, he said.

“According to the law, a company, an enterprise has the right to expand or reduce its employees depending on its economic situations. What the law obligates is to dismiss in accordance with [correct] procedure and pay compensation in accordance with the law or by mutual agreement,” he said.

Additional reporting by Danielle Keeton-Olsen

Updated at 4:21 p.m. with Labor Ministry comment.

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