Acting against all common sense and decency, and with complete disregard for the negative impact on employees, guests, investors and the gaming industry, NagaWorld management in Cambodia has chosen to start 2022 with an escalation of a crisis that could easily have ended in 2021.

Deeply frustrated and dismayed by the repeated refusal of NagaWorld management to engage in good faith negotiations over the forced mass redundancy of over 1,300 workers that left many destitute and in poverty, union members overwhelmingly voted in favour of strike action in early November 2021. The union, LRSU, issued a notice of strike on November 22, 2021, entitled “Notice of peaceful strike in front of Naga World from December 18, 2021 until a solution is found”. In the four weeks that followed, NagaWorld management did nothing to try to find that solution.

While LRSU made every effort to find a negotiated solution over this four week period, management refused to talk and simply avoided attending the first of three mediation meetings with the Ministry of Labour. When management finally attended these meetings, they remained silent, relying on ministry officials to pressure the union to give up workers’ demands.

LRSU expressed the frustration and disappointment of union members in its letter to management on December 9, 2021:

In fact, union members, who are employees of your company, are so deeply angered and frustrated by the mass forced redundancies and failure to recognize their contribution and hard work is evidence of corporate failure. Obviously, workers do not easily decide to strike, they spent a lot of time fulfilling the legal requirements and finally voted overwhelmingly to decide to strike, which is the result of frustration and a loss of confidence in the company’s management.

This included the failure to find a solution through negotiations:

Instead of engaging in good faith negotiations and working together to find a solution, the company has exploited loopholes and shortcomings in the law and legal process to escape its responsibility. The real context of the strike notice is the repeated failure of management to act in good faith to find a solution to this situation.

As LRSU states very clearly in its December 9 letter to NagaWorld management, this is a strike caused by management failure:

The strike is caused by repeated management failure and a complete loss of trust in the ability of management to resolve these issues.

On the first day of the strike action on December 18, management still made no effort to engage in negotiations to prevent the escalation of the labour dispute and limit damage to the business. Instead management sought a legal injunction against the strike and lobbied the authorities to label the strike as “illegal”. In desperation, senior Ministry of Labour officials turned to social media to discredit the strike, dangerously labelling it as a politically motivated “colour revolution”. This blatant attempt to justify repressive political measures to end an industrial dispute prompted widespread public criticism.

As one of the largest integrated gaming resorts in Asia, the crisis at NagaCorp’s NagaWorld in Cambodia has repercussions for the region. Repeated failures by management – including lax COVID-19 safety protocols and attempts to cover up a community outbreak in one of its casinosĀ  in February and March 2021 – have propelled the company into a prolonged crisis in 2022.

The placards in Khmer, English and Chinese read: Naga World Casino Cambodia Employees on Strike! We were terminated after protesting against management’s failure to maintain COVID-19 safety for workers & guests