There is little doubt whether the last year has been trying on every industry in the world by the actions of a Cambodian casino, NagaWorld, has come under fire by a workers’ union in the country. The casino operator has eliminated 1,300 jobs and has reduced the retrenched workers’ severance pay.
According to reports from The Thomas Reuters Foundation, the Phnom Peng-based casino property announced recently that it would be retrenching around 15% of its workforce citing the financial strain of the pandemic as the cause for the laying off of 1,300 employees. Employees of NagaWorld, who hold positions deemed redundant, are set to lose thousands of dollars from their much-anticipated and necessary severance packages. The casino operator, and the financial team, had made use of the lower salaries earned in 2020 to calculate each employee’s severance, which is not a true representation of how much severance is owed to the employees. The casino operator also made use of the guidance provided by the government during the pandemic.
Chhim Sithar, a leader of the union, went on record to share that thousands of NagaWorld’s workers had risked their personal safety, and that of their family and loved ones, to ensure that NagaWorld would make a profit during the pandemic. She went on to say that it is heartbreaking to think that when these employees require assistance, NagaWorld has effectively abandoned them and is refusing to pay them their due. Sithar has claimed that the casino operator’s decision and methods have violated Cambodian labour Law standards since any actions taken by employers regarding redundant employees are required to consider seniority.
As the sole casino in Phnom Penh, the capital city, NagaWorld’s decision will impact the standard of living of thousands of its employees. The union leader’s claims have yet to be responded to by any officials from NagaWorld. Sithar has also pointed out that NagaWorld was operational for the majority of 2020 and was only shuttered last year between April and July. However, it had also experienced another closure recently.
While it is illegal for Cambodian residents to gamble at a casino venue, NagaWorld gets plenty of action from foreigners and tourists. As a result of the pandemic, and travel restrictions in most parts of the world, NagaWorld reported a significant decrease in profits last year, going from 2019’s $519 million to 2020s $102 million.
Since NagaWorld and authorities have decided to remain silent, an associate professor of World Affairs and Diplomacy shared that the Cambodian workers’ union has a valid point. Despite the brief closure of the casino venue between April and July last year, the casino still managed to make $102 million in profit. However, taking an isolated look at this issue will only serve to justify the actions of the operator which would be unjust to the 1,300 employees affected. NagaWorld has been lucrative for many years and has accrued billions in profit over that time, thanks to the hard work of its Cambodian workforce. Employees are, and always will be, any company’s most precious resource.
The professor, Sophal Ear, went on to share that abandoning the employees when the casino has been operational since 2021 began up until quite recently is inexcusable. While the failure to fulfil regulatory requirements for severance packages and pay is disappointing, it is also 100% illegal.
Ear also commented on the lack of response or comment from casino officials and authorities and stated that this silence shows that authorities are not in charge of the situation at all. According to his statement, basic decency would dictate that the billionaire, who is the owner of NagaWorld, make use of about $10 million of his own money to ensure that his employees get what they deserve and the law requires. This small sum is just 1% of a billion dollars and the owner has a net worth of almost $5 million.
The professor and workers’ union suspect corruption in the government due to their lack of action regarding this situation. It seems as though the authorities are supportive of the operator’s decision because it serves their best interests and lines their pockets. It should come as no surprise that challenging times always hang the starving out to dry first.