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Sihanoukville ex-casino workers vow to protest over missing wages

Ben Sokhean / Khmer Times Share:
A former worker demands missing wages. KT/Chor Sokunthea

Sihanoukville, Preah Sihanouk Province – The negotiation between laid-off casino workers and their former employer over missing wages and benefits has stalled after the company began vacating its premises, prompting the workers to renew protest calls.

A total of 277 former employees of Chinese-owned casino Changcheng in Buon commune are demanding their missing wages and seniority benefits after the company ceased operations earlier this week.

According to the company, the casino ceased operations due to coronavirus fears, but the laid-off workers claimed the business owner could no longer pay wages due to lost revenues following the recent ban on online and arcade gambling.

Both sides earlier this week entered negotiation over last month’s missing wages and benefits, but a former employee who gave his name as Ly said his colleagues will protest again because the company began removing furniture, equipment and electronics from the casino building earlier this week.

Mr Ly said the former workers fear the business owner has left the Kingdom.

“Based on the contract, the company needed to pay employees on the 5th of every month but they ceased operations February 4, leaving people unemployed,” he said. “The situation looks as if the company does not care about paying our wages.”

Men Sreyma, a former casino card dealer, yesterday said the company is using coronavirus fears as an excuse to buy time while it vacates its premises.

Ms Sreyma said the company had been downsizing since the ban on online and arcade gambling came into effect on January 1.

Representatives of Changcheng could not be reached for comment yesterday.

The provincial labour department reported that since the ban took effect, 56 out of 75 casinos in Preah Sihanouk had ceased operations.

Met Vanna, chief of the department’s inspections and labour dispute office, yesterday said his officials met casino representatives and the laid-off workers earlier this week to negotiate.

“We are working to solve this,” Mr Vanna said. “We are holding on to the passport of Chen Congle, the casino’s chief accountant, to reassure the former employees.”

He said that it is not clear whether the company had suspended or ceased operations, adding the company’s Chinese managers are still in the Kingdom.

Mr Vanna said the casino’s owner said the 277 former employees will be paid next week and the payment delay is because a bank in China suspended operations.

“They said the bank in China has not been working due to the coronavirus,” he said. “The owner was not able to transfer money from China.”

“The company promised to pay the last month’s missing wages at 2pm on Monday,” Mr Vanna added, noting the former employees should be patient. “Please wait and see on Monday whether or not the casino pays the workers.”

He said that when it comes to seniority, none of the employees had been working at the company long enough to reap the benefits.

“The casino started its full operation earlier this year and they decided to close on Tuesday,” Mr Vanna said. “I don’t think the employees can demand benefits as most of them did not finish their probation period.”

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