Ministry Investigates Naga Labor Complaints

The Ministry of Labor is investigating allegations that management of the Naga Floating Casino is ignoring Cambodian labor laws and failing to negotiate in good faith with its employees.

The allegations are contained in a complaint filed with the ministry by Chuon Mom Thol, president of the Cambodian Union Federation, which represents workers at the casino.

“Yes, I have received the complaint and we are investigating,” Om Mean, the ministry’s director-general of vocational training, said Wednesday. He said he couldn’t say what the ministry might do until he sees the report.

Chuon Mom Thol said he felt he had no choice but to file a complaint after casino managers stopped returning his calls. “My workers are angry,” he said. “I am not a troublemaker, but we cannot find anyone there who will talk to us.”

Jane Martin, casino spokeswoman, said the company had no comment.

Long-simmering problems at the casino erupted publicly last month when workers threatened to strike over what they called unfair and racist treatment by casino supervisors. They are seeking pay increases and a chance at supervisory jobs, which they say are filled only by foreigners.

The employees belong to the Union Supporting the Rights of Cambodian Employees of Naga Resorts, which is in turn represented by the CUF. Chuon Mom Thol said he has tried several times to resolve problems with Naga management, to no avail.

According to the complaint, the workers want the company to rehire three employees they say are union activists; allow the appointment of a shop steward; and set up internal disciplinary regulations, rather than punishing employees “at will.”

The workers also claim the company employs a “disproportionate” number of foreigners who have no work identity cards issued by the Ministry of Labor; requires workers to work holidays without paying double time; and punishes and humiliates  Cambodian workers in front of casino guests.

Chuon Mom Thol said Wed­nes­day he had met with Naga managers, written to them and called repeatedly in an attempt to resolve the issues. “The casino should address this. They have dismissed these workers illegally,” he said.

Chuon Mom Thol said he and his workers have tried to be co­operative and nonconfrontational, but feel they are at a dead end.

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

Last month’s threatened strike was blocked when city officials refused to issue a permit, saying the planned strike date was too close to the Water Festival and the birthdays of Phnom Penh and King Norodom Sihanouk.

(Additional reporting by Kay Kimsong)


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