Cambodia’s biggest casino operator NagaCorp is once again going through labor trouble after it stopped COVID-19 suspension payments to staff at its flagship venue in Phnom Penh.
On Tuesday, Cambodian media reported that some 200 staff of the NagaWorld casino were demonstrating in front Labor Ministry building to protest a move by NagaCorp to stop the partial salary payments the firm had been making since all Cambodian gambling operators were ordered to close on April 1 due to COVID-19.
When Cambodia’s PM Hun Sen issued his casino closure order, he said casino operators “should find a solution for their workers during the suspension of their businesses.” At first, NagaCorp agreed to pay most employees of their salaries, whereas a handful of staff are still on full-time running NagaWorld’s hotel, which remains somewhat operational.
Those 50% payments were stopped this June, leaving most NagaWorld employees with no income at all. The gathering outside the Labor Ministry, accompanied by thousands of thumbprint petitions from other impacted employees, was a bid to convince the government to pay idle casino employees that same $40 monthly handout that staff in the garment and tourism sectors are now receiving.
Chhim Sithar, who represents NagaWord’s unionized employees, told local media that the union had presented NagaCorp with three options for keeping its staff from economic disintegration during the closure. One involves paying employees 30% of their wages and loaning them another 20% from future salaries.
Another option would allow employees to borrow $300 each month from NagaCorp till norma work resumes, whereas a third option would allow staff to borrow the value of their salaries for 15 paid holidays (which are paid at a rate of 300% of normal daily pay). Sithar continued by saying that workers would repay the lent sums via 10% deductions from their normal salaries once NagaWorld restarts.
The company has yet to officially respond to these overtures, and the firm hasn’t blinked in former labor crackdowns. NagaWorld’s unionized workers went on strike for improved pay September, 2019, promting NagaCorp to secure a ruling declaring the strike illegal, after which the workers returned to work without any salary increase.
NagaCorp recorded a record profit of $521m in 2019 thanks to continued expansion of its flagship Phnom Penh resort, which critics are claiming could do better to help staff. However, the firm is embarking on its biggest expansion to date with Naga3, which holds a massive $3.5 billion pricetag, leaving investors in full ‘let staff eat cake’ mode.