Cambodian Casino Eliminates 1,300 Jobs, Cuts Worker Severance Pay

Posted on: May 3, 2021, 08:28h. 

Last updated on: May 4, 2021, 08:37h.

Cambodia’s NagaWorld gaming property is eliminating some 1,300 jobs and reducing severance pay. The move was criticized by a workers’ union.

NagaWorld declined to comment on union's allegations
Chhim Sithar, a union leader at NagaWorld, shown here. She claims the Cambodian casino improperly laid off workers and used faulty methods for determining severance pay. (Image: The Cambodian Daily)

The Thomson Reuters Foundation reported the Phnom Penh-based gaming property announced recently more than 15 percent of its workforce is to be laid off. But the casino’s owner blames the move on the impact from COVID-19.

Employees who are considered redundant will lose tens of thousands of dollars in once-anticipated severance packages, the report said. That is because the amounts were added up using lower salaries earned in 2020, the report adds.

The casino also used government guidance for employers released during the COVID-19 pandemic, the union told Thomson Reuters.

“Workers risked their safety to make profits for NagaWorld during the pandemic, and then when they need help, they are abandoned,” Chhim Sithar, a union leader, was quoted by Thomson Reuters.

We are asking for support and they have responded with the idea of mass layoffs. It’s extremely disappointing.”

Sithar claimed NagaWorld’s move violates labor law standards. Employer action on redundant employees must consider seniority, Sithar adds.

NagaWorld Offers No Response

NagaWorld is the sole casino in the capital city of Phnom Penh. Officials from NagaWorld declined to comment on the union leader’s claims, the report said.

NagaWorld was open for most of 2020. It was shuttered between April and July. It had a recent closure, too.

Foreign tourists can gamble in Cambodia. Cambodian residents are prohibited from gambling at a casino.

The pandemic led to NagaWorld profits lowering to $102 million last year, compared to $521 million in 2019, Thomson Reuters said.

Casino Put Workers Out to Pasture

When asked for comment on the employment dispute, Sophal Ear, an associate professor of Diplomacy & World Affairs at California’s Occidental College, told, “The union has a point.

Despite closing April to July 2020, the casino still made $102 million in profits,” Ear said. “The casino has made billions in profits over the years. Employees are the company’s most precious resources.

“Putting them out to pasture like this when the firm has been operating all of 2021 up until recently seems draconian. Not fulfilling regulatory requirements on severance pay isn’t just disappointing, it’s illegal.”

He noted, too, how officials chose not to comment in response to workers’ concerns.

“For the authorities to say nothing when asked shows just who is in charge,” Ear said. “Certainly not the authorities.”

Ear also pointed out that basic decency would lead the billionaire who owns the casino to use $10 million of their money, which is 1 percent of $1 billion, “to at least ensure his employees get what the law requires,” Ear said.

Ear claims the owner has a net worth of $4.5 billion.

Authorities are in cahoots with the casino because they are as much owners of the business as the CEO is — so they see expenses as coming out of their pockets, too,” Ear alleged.

“They don’t want to see their own share of profits suffer,” Ear further claimed. “It’s the classic abuse of public office for private gain, aka corruption.”

He notes, too, the first to starve are workers in challenging times.

“The lockdown is a prime example. First it was two weeks of stay in your home, do not leave. Then it was, “Oh, let’s just extend for another week.” Normal Cambodians don’t have a pantry and large refrigerators like the elites of Phnom Penh, but shop for food daily, Ear pointed out.