About 300 Cambodian employees of Naga Casino went on strike Friday to demand improved working conditions and better pay.
Casino operators, cashiers and service workers arrived at a municipal parking lot near the casino entrance at about 8 am, said Yen Sethykun, vice president of the Cambodian Casino Floor Workers’ Union. The workers planned to sit in the parking lot again Saturday, he said.
Ministry of Labor officials attempting to negotiate a resolution met with striking workers in the morning. At about 9 am, ministry officials began talks with casino management which continued until at least 5 pm, according to Ham Phea, an official at the ministry’s labor dispute bureau.
Even though the labor law states that companies must discuss labor disputes with unions, “the employer has…ordered that there be no discussions with the trade union,” Ham Phea said.
A small, vaguely worded Khmer-language sign posted near the protesters and signed by Naga’s vice president for casino operations Paul Ng states that if staff did not show up for work Friday, then the company would make a decision according to the labor law.
Asked Friday if that means striking workers will be fired, Ng said “we will cross that bridge when we come to it.”
Yen Sethykun said the labor law states an employer must give striking workers seven days notice that they will be fired.
The Cambodian employees claim they earn about half the salary of employees at other Cambodian casinos and less than a third of what expatriates at Naga earn for doing the same jobs, contradicting labor law. They also claim to be the victims of arbitrary firings for personal reasons or to forestall promotions that would lead to pay increases.
A meeting last month with representatives of the casino’s Malaysian owner, Ariston Sdn Bd, moderated by the Ministry of Labor, proved fruitless, former union president Sous Samern said Thursday.
Ng said most Cambodians showed up for work Friday. Striking workers claimed that only a few Cambodians had walked inside the casino.
Striker Sok Narith said workers would stay at the casino entrance until 11 pm Friday because the last shift at the 24-hour casino arrives for work at 10:30 pm. The strikers will try to persuade workers not to go to work and to “show cooperation” to the strike, he said.
One Cambodian casino operator who arrived for work Friday said no blackjack was played Friday. “We have a manpower problem today, so we just play baccarat,” he said.
(Additional reporting by Saing Soenthrith)