Some 100 NagaWorld strikers on June 20 submitted petitions to the Cabinet of Prime Minister Hun Sen and the National Assembly seeking intervention in their long-standing dispute, despite the labour ministry mediating 13 times to reach a solution.
Chhim Sithar, head of the Labour Rights Supported Union of Khmer Employees at NagaWorld (LRSU), said it had been six months since the workers had gone on strike and that neither the union nor the integrated casino resort had been able to reach a compromise although the ministry had negotiated severance payments for more than half of the strikers.
Sithar noted that the petition had three requests. First, for Hun Sen to help get nearly 200 laid-off employees reinstated. Second, for NagaWorld to pay legal compensation to those willing to accept it, and third is for the charges against 15 union leaders and activists to be dropped.
“We wrote this petition with hope. We have asked for the prime minister to intercede in the dispute only because we have pursued all available mechanisms – and involved several relevant institutions – but still have not reached a solution,” she said.
“We think this is the appropriate time for Prime Minister Hun Sen to help resolve the problem, because it appears that all other institutions are biased towards employers. Apparently, no institution other than the prime minister can intercede and solve this matter,” she added.
Cabinet official Kong Chamroeun received the petition, but made no comment.
After submitting the petition, the strikers marched to the National Assembly. Police officers made no attempt to prevent them from delivering their petition, as noted by human rights organisations and the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (UNHCR) in Cambodia, who observed them.
Tes Rukhaphal, secretary-general of the Committee for the Resolution of Strikes under the Ministry of Labour and Vocational Training, could not be reached for comment.
Moeun Tola, executive director of the Centre for Alliance of Labour and Human Rights (CENTRAL), said the strikers had asked for the highest official in the land to intervene because they had lost faith in the labour ministry’s ability to end the dispute.
“We don’t know how this will end, but if the top leadership doesn’t want protests happening as Cambodia chairs ASEAN, or with next year’s general election coming up, they should intervene and the company should reinstate the around 100 workers. Then it would be over,” he said.
According to the labour ministry, 199 of the original 373 strikers had agreed to accept severance payments from NagaWorld. There were 174 workers who still refused the offered compensation.