Cambodian Unions Warn Of National Strike Over NagaWorld

July 27, 2022
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A festering dispute between Phnom Penh integrated resort NagaWorld and hundreds of sacked workers is poised to devolve into a nationwide strike in Cambodia’s crucial textile and food industries.

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A festering dispute between Phnom Penh integrated resort NagaWorld and hundreds of sacked workers is poised to devolve into a nationwide strike in Cambodia’s crucial textile and food industries.

Yang Sophorn, president of the Cambodian Alliance of Trade Unions (CATU), told the independent VOD media group on Monday (July 25) that workers in garment factories and across the food industry are planning strike action for August.

“The meaning of the strike, what we want to do, is support the [NagaWorld] strike and the [NagaWorld] union’s issues. Our message is to demand a solution to Naga,” she said.

Early in July, Sophorn floated the possibility of unified strike action over Hong Kong-listed NagaCorp’s sacking of 1,300 NagaWorld employees in December.

Unions were angered by the number of redundancies, the size of severance packages and the firing of all key union leaders after the company reported a $102m profit the previous March.

Unionists have spent much of the time since the dismissals leading protests on streets near NagaWorld, resulting in detentions and violence, including the arrest of 180 workers on March 7.

The degenerating situation has alarmed the US government, the International Labor Organization and global labour alliances, which have stepped up monitoring of the tensions.

Sophorn said in early July that the failure to reach a settlement with sacked workers within a fortnight could trigger industrial action across the nation’s garment, footwear, handbag and travel goods sectors.

“So if after the first and second week there is no solution, maybe we will decide to join the strike,” she told VOD. “Not as an observer — we will join the strike with other union members as well.”

The Cambodian government has largely handled the conflict through the courts, the Phnom Penh city administration and a degree of Cabinet mediation.

But authorities at all levels have not hidden their fundamental support for NagaWorld, which ranked in the top ten casinos in the world by EBITDA prior to the coronavirus pandemic.

NagaWorld remains a key investment interest for the Cambodian government, with a massive expansion of the precinct and casino services proceeding despite likely pandemic-linked cuts to the original $4bn price tag.

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