Unionists, Workers Disappointed as Negotiations Again Fail to Progress

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NagaWorld union president Chhim Sithar, right, and fellow union negotiators leave a meeting overseen by the Labor Ministry, Wednesday, April 6, 2022. (Chhorn Raksmey/VOD)

Another round of negotiations for the NagaWorld casino labor dispute on Wednesday saw the company and union still stuck in opposing positions, workers said.

The long-running dispute, originating from mass layoffs of more than 1,300 staff members last year that workers have alleged amounted to union-busting, has seen regular protests since December and a series of stalled negotiations at the Labor Ministry.

The two sides met again with ministry officials on Wednesday, but as she walked out with four other unionists, Chhim Sithar, the union president, said there was again no result.

The union has been pushing for the reinstatement of about 200 workers, including top unionists. But the company still pointed to the economic impacts of Covid-19 to say it could not rehire the workers, Sithar said.

“I can’t accept them when Covid is under control now,” Sithar said. “The company always mentions how they provide jobs to Cambodian citizens and helps to develop the country.”

Sithar also spoke out against what she saw as the inaction of Labor Ministry officials in the negotiations.

“I am really disappointed when the inspector didn’t say anything when the company mentioned terminating workers,” which employees believe targeted the union, Sithar said. “They don’t have anything to say.”

On Sunday, NagaCorp posted unaudited preliminary results for the first quarter of the year showing a surge in revenue compared to the end of last year. Total net gaming revenue grew 33% to more than $1 million a day on the back of 53% growth in mass gaming and a 63% increase for referral VIPs compared to the last quarter of 2021, NagaCorp said. However, gross gaming revenue remained down compared to a year earlier.

Mat Sovanthin, a worker who has been actively protesting during the labor dispute, said she felt hopeless at the lack of results in the ongoing negotiations.

The workers have not been protesting since Sunday, Sovanthin said, and they had not yet decided whether to return to rally again on Thursday.

For several weeks, the rallies have been quickly suppressed by authorities as protesters have approached the NagaWorld area.

“Some have been hurt when authorities push us onto the buses and some are still unwell,” Sovanthin said.

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