The Ministry of Labour and Vocational Training denied that the deadlock in resolving labour disputes at the NagaWorld integrated casino resort is due to the ministry’s indifference.
In an October 1 statement, the ministry emphasised that the unresolved issues are not a result of the ministry’s neglect, but because the parties to the dispute are not willing to participate in collective labour resolution formalities, meaning they will likely have to sort their differences out in court.
“The former employees choose to protest illegally during the settlement process. Regardless, the ministry continues to hold meetings and mediate this case,” it said.
It encourages the two parties to take their dispute to court if still cannot find a solution and reach an agreement.
Chhim Sithor, head of labour union at NagaWorld, said the clarification was not new, alleging that the ministry was not following the law.
“What the workers are demanding is that the employer respect the law – especially in relation to discrimination against unions. Employers are prohibited by law from using union membership as a reason to dismiss a worker, whether they use other crises as an excuse to do so, or not,” he said.
Moeun Tola, executive director of the Centre for Labor Alliances and Human Rights (CENTRAL), said the ministry has actually facilitated several meetings to resolve labour disputes.
He said NagaWorld’s argument that it had laid off employees due to the Covid-19 crisis was clearly unreasonable, as it had recruited more employees, and was also in a position where it was able to support the Phnom Penh Municipal Hall by donating food supplies. Neither of these actions reflecting a company that was suffering from a serious downturn in business, he said.
“In the past, some employees agreed to be laid off if the company was in crisis. Some of these employees are still working there, while several union-affiliated staffers were added to the 300 who were dismissed, despite the company’s denials,” he added.
He went on to question whether the intention to fire union leaders and activists was based on the Covid-19 pandemic, or a desire to break the strength of the union. He believed that this is a point which the ministry should be investigating.
According to the ministry’s announcement, a total of 244 of the 373 former employees have now accepted the compensation offered by the company. Ministry officials have scheduled an October 6 meeting to attempt to mediate a solution for the remaining laid off workers.