The Royal Government of Cambodia has issued a statement around the ongoing worker protests outside integrated resort NagaWorld, claiming it has already provided financial incentives to individuals affected by layoffs and warning those incentives may be withdrawn if the protests continue.
The statement, published by The Khmer Times on Wednesday, claims the Ministry of Labour and Vocational Training has been “working tirelessly” to resolve the dispute between NagaWorld and around 220 workers who have refused one-off payments from their former employer.
It also says the Ministry “offered financial incentives to employees affected by the downsizing and continued to ensure that legitimate benefits of those downsized employees have been assured.”
However, the statement refers to a warrant issued by the Phnom Penh Municipal Court on 16 December 2021 which ruled that all protests taking place from 18 December 2021 onwards were illegal.
“NagaWorld was forced to reduce its employees due to the significant impact of COVID-19 on Cambodia’s tourism industry,” it says.
“While the Ministry supports the legitimate right to strike, the Ministry and relevant authorities do not permit the disgruntled employees to assemble in great numbers at this time due to the need to prevent the spread of COVID-19 and to keep all Cambodians safe. Those who have insisted on gathering to air their grievances at NagaWorld are considered to transgress the Ministry’s strict policies and COVID-19 safety regulations, will be removed peacefully, and are at risk of losing their benefits.”
According to details mapped out by the government, NagaWorld laid off 373 employees last year of which 153 agreed to accept a one-off payment in return. However, a larger number have been involved in protests since December calling for full reinstatement of all workers affected.
The statement claims that the Ministry has invited the concerned parties to negotiate on seven occasions but “each time the 373 disgruntled employees demanded to be re-instated before they would issue further demands.”
“As of 15 March 2022, 153 out of 373 employees agreed to accept a one-off payment from Nagaworld in return for their employment contracts being terminated, leaving 220 former employees who have yet to agree.
“The Ministry calls on all protestors both current and former employees of NagaWorld to cease gathering in breach of COVID-19 safety regulations, or else they risk being peacefully removed and facing the loss of their entitlement to financial benefits.”
NagaWorld operator NagaCorp said last year that it had taken “proactive measures to manage the [COVID-19] situation” including a rationalization program to improve cost efficiency, but added it was providing affected employees with “enhanced termination compensation over and above payments required by the applicable Cambodian laws to assist their transition into other career or business interests.”
The company had been looking to save up to US$2 million per month in run-rate operating costs when the workers were let go.