Citing Racism, Naga Casino Workers Threaten to Strike

Cambodian employees of the Naga casino are threatening to strike Thursday over pay and alleged unfair treatment at the hands of foreigners, according to union officials.

The Union Supporting the Rights of Cambodian Employees of Naga Resort asked the Ministry of Social Affairs to intervene and negotiate a settlement in a letter released to the media Monday.

In a May agreement brokered by the ministry, the casino management pledged to introduce a yearly bonus equal to one month’s pay to all workers, a union official said. But the casino has only been paying half the promised amount, the official said.

Union officials are demanding pay increases that they say would put Naga on a par with pay scales at casinos in Poipet or Sihanouk­ville. For dealers, that means a raise from $70 or $80 a month to $150 a month.

The letter claims labor law violations ranging from denying employees a day off each week to not honoring national holidays. The union demands a day-care center, as required by law for businesses employing more than 100 women.

The letter also asks the management to stop “racism.”

The casino’s 43 foreign employees are all in supervisory positions effectively unavailable to Cam­bodians, another union official said. “We can do those jobs,” said one union official, a six-year casino employee.

Discrimination at the Mal­aysian-owned casino takes other forms, other officials claim.

Cambodian employees eat in a canteen while foreign workers, most of whom are from the Philip­pines and Malaysia, eat better food in casino restaurants. Supervisors often chastise Cam­bodian employees in front of guests, an official said.

The letter also asks the management to take down “unsuitable pictures.” Cambodian wo­men em­ploy­­ees are offended by paintings of nude women drawn on the casino walls, an official said.

Naga spokeswoman Jane Martin refused to comment on the labor dispute Monday, calling media coverage “biased…to the point of willfully misrepresenting the situation.”

In 1998 about 600 casino em­ployees went on a one-day strike, returning to work after management withdrew a proposal for a 20 percent pay cut.


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