Naga Workers Strike Today Over Treatment

Cambodian employees at the Naga Casino plan to strike this morning, claiming unfair treatment and low pay.

Seth Ykun, vice president of the Cambodian casino floor workers’ union, said his union’s roughly 300 employees will strike until a deal is reached or they are fired.

“Now we’re not scared anymore,” he said. “There is a limit to our patience, and if that limit is reached, we have to fight.”

A meeting last month with representatives of the casino’s Ma­lay­sian owner, Ariston Sdn Bd, moderated by the Ministry of La­bor, proved fruitless, said former union president Sous Samern. “They could not agree on any of our 13 points,” he said.

Naga spokeswoman Jane Mar­tin said Thursday evening that the casino had received no official notice of a legal strike. “The last con­versation we had with the head of the union, I thought that everything had been resolved,” she said.

Gathering before the union’s modest headquarters Thursday afternoon, female casino workers said that since the union threatened to strike, they had been intimidated by bodyguards loitering in front of the casino’s en­trance. “They asked us if we wan­ted to taste their electric ba­tons,” one woman said.

The casino floor employees are about 90 percent female, union officials said.

Union officials predicted Naga will not close. During a labor dispute in 1998, expatriate employees worked extra hours, they said.

The Cambodian employees say they are second-class citizens at the casino, treated more sternly by supervisors and forced to eat at a canteen while expatriate em­ploy­ees eat at casino res­tau­rants. They say 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 say they are fired arbitrarily for personal reasons or to forestall promotions that would lead to pay increases.

By law, Cambodians are not permitted to gamble at the casino.

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