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NagaCorp clarifies media reports on workers’ strike

CAMBODIAN casino operator NagaCorp on Friday sought to clarify media reports that said thousands of its employees had gone on strike in front of NagaWorld Complex on Thursday demanding higher pay and better working conditions.

It called some of these reports "one-sided" and "inaccurate". It said that in fact it was just 500 to 700 employees that went on strike, and on the same day, the Phnom Penh Court of First Instance issued a ruling order to investigate the strike and take legal action against the employees involved in the strike for violation of the court injunction.

The court injunction was obtained from the Phnom Penh Municipal Court, on legal advice from HML Law Group & Consultants the previous day. It had ruled that the planned employees' strike on Jan 9 would be considered an illegal strike and the employees who participated would be committing "a grave offence".

The company, which failed to secure a Singapore Exchange listing more than a decade ago, has 8,200 employees at its NagaWorld Complex casino.

It said that the dispute began last September when a small group of employees, who are members of the Labor Rights Supported Union of Khmer Employees of NagaWorld, gathered illegally in the Aeon Mall 1 in Phnom Penh to incite other employees not to work during the Pchum Ben Holidays from Sept 27 to 29.

Thereafter, on Sept 20, Chhim Sithar, the president of the NagaWorld Union, was suspended for alleged breach of the group's rules and regulations.

Five days later, the NagaWorld Union submitted a letter requesting four things: the reinstatement of Ms Sithar with full pay pending investigation, permission to work on national holidays on a voluntary basis, termination of a foreign casino operation manager, and higher monthly salaries for certain groups of employees.

NagaCorp said that despite the suspension, Ms Sithar had continued to work against the group's interests by allegedly inciting and intimidating other employees, both unionised and non-unionised, not to work during the Pchum Ben Holidays.

"This reflects that she has mala-fide intentions," it said, adding that since her suspension, she has continued to be paid fully with all benefits retained, even though she did not turn up for work pending investigations.

"The group expects to continue to suspend Ms Chhim Sithar, but with full pay, pending further investigations and analysis of additional breaches of contract and actions committed by her in order to allow all relevant parties to evaluate the validity, relevance, consequences and seriousness of these breaches which take time to allow legal experts to evaluate and study."

It added that NagaWorld is a 24-hour service and hospitality company which generates more revenue during holidays, so from the start, all employment contracts have required employees to work on some public holidays on roster or rotational shifts. Those who work on holidays are also paid 300 per cent more than during regular periods. It also said there was no reason to terminate the foreign casino operation manager as the appointment was not in breach of the group's rules, and is only accountable to the group and not the union which has acted beyond its legal limits.

As for the union's demand to adjust the minimum wage to US$300 for hotel employees and US$500 for casino employees, NagaCorp said it "pays high wages and fringe benefits to its employees" and it "believes that the salary is one of the best and if not the highest in Cambodia".

Besides cash bonus and other fringe benefits, the group has also implemented a language incentive programme, unlimited meals, and NagaMart to offer employees savings on household goods.

Last October, two reconciliation meetings between the group and union were held with the Ministry of Labour, but failed to resolve the dispute.

The group added that all its business operations remain normal and the board expects the matter to have no negative impact on the group's business operations.