Sihanoukville, Preah Sihanouk Province– Hundreds of employees of a Chinese-owned casino in Preah Sihanouk province’s Sihanoukville protested over unpaid wages yesterday after the management announced it was shuttering operations.
The employees protested outside the Changcheng casino in Buon commune from morning until noon before the provincial labour department intervened and organised negotiations between them and casino representatives.
A casino manager, who declined to be named, said the owner decided to close operations due to fears of infection of Novel Coronavirus, following the recent detection in a 60-year-old Chinese national in Sihanoukville.
Men Sreyma, 22, a poker card dealer who joined the protest yesterday, said a contract between the company and employees stipulates that the company should pay monthly wages on the 5th of each month.
“We cannot accept what the company did [closing down] because it is failing to follow the agreement to pay the employees today,” she said. “The owners are using the Novel Coronavirus as an excuse to delay paying the wages.”
Ms Sreyam added she had noticed the casino was experiencing a drop in patrons following the ban against online and arcade gambling in the Kingdom which took effect on January 1.
“I think the company may be bankrupt and are using a trick like this,” she said. “We will not stop protesting until it resolves the wage issue.”
Another employee Rim Borey, 20, said yesterday that since January 23, the company decided to cut one-third of the employee’s wages due to declining revenue.
She claimed the company also reduced the minimum wage from $450 to $400.
“We agreed to accept the reduction in our salary because of declining revenue,” Ms Borey said. “But now they are trying to default on paying our salary.”
She said the company management announced yesterday that it will close operations.
“If they intend to close the casino, they must pay us our monthly wages, severance pay and other benefits based on the Labour Law.” she added.
According to the minutes of the hour long negotiations, the company has decided to terminate the contracts of all 277 employees and have agreed to pay the last salary due.
The minutes noted that the provincial labor department official Phan Vutha, who attended the negotiations, is withholding the passport of the company’s chief accountant Chen Congle and will return it when all 277 employees have received their wages.
It is not the first closure of a casino in Sihanoukville.
Yov Khemara, provincial labour department director, previously told Khmer Times that 56 out of 75 casinos in the province gradually closed ever since Prime Minister Hun Sen announced the ban on online gambling in August, noting 33 casinos suspended all operations, while 23 completely shut down.
He said about 7,700 casino employees lost their jobs due to the ban. He mentioned most casinos in the province were owned and managed by Chinese nationals. Those who shut down their casinos left the Kingdom.