Cambodia: Union busting sparks world-wide outrage

Chutzpah. There is no other word to describe the actions of the Naga World company, which runs hotel casinos in Cambodia.

In a recent statement, the company boasted of its pro-union credentials: “Because of the strong dedication towards protection of interests and rights of the staff’s welfare, the company has encouraged and emphasised to the staff to unionise since the company’s inception in 1995”. That’s great — not only allowing workers to join unions but actually encouraging them to do so.

Except that none of that is true.

Naga World has along history of union-busting going back at least 13 years. The company’s refusal to recognise its employees’ right to freedom of association and collective bargaining has been reported both to Cambodia’s Ministry of Labour and the International Labour Organisation multiple times.

In 2009, according to the Geneva-based International Union of Food workers, the company “unfairly dismissed 14 union leaders and members during collective bargaining to prevent the union from pursuing its wage demands. Management refused to reinstate the union leaders even after an Arbitration Council decision ordering reinstatement. The collective bargaining rights of more than 4,000 union members were never restored.”

So much for their historic commitment dating back 27 years to ensuring its employees’ rights. Naga World is a union-buster.

The IUF also revealed that “further attacks on the union occurred in 2013 and 2019, and in 2020 management used the pandemic to terminate all of the union leadership and the majority of active union members.”

And now the situation has escalated.

On 18 December 2021 workers at NagaWorld began striking to protest management’s refusal to engage in good faith negotiations over the forced mass redundancy of over 1,300 workers that left many destitute.

Instead of agreeing to negotiate in good faith with the union, the police — no doubt acting on company orders — began arresting workers and leaders of the union. There are extraordinary photos showing the workers forming a human cordon around their leaders to prevent further arrests.

On 4 January, union President Sithar Chhim was violently arrested on the picket line by plainclothes police.

At the moment, there are eight union leaders in custody. They are charged with the offence of “incitement,” which carries a sentence of up to 5 years imprisonment.

They are being denied access to legal representation with COVID restrictions being given as the excuse.

The terrible behaviour of the company, and the heroic militancy of the workers have sparked world-wide interest.

The ILO Director General, Guy Ryder, has expressed deep concern over the arrests and has called for the immediate release of those arrested.

The IUF has launched a major online campaign on LabourStart demanding freedom for the jailed union leaders. After just one week, the campaign had over 10,000 supporters — making it the largest LabourStart campaign in several years.

To show your support, please visit

This article appears in this week’s edition of Solidarity.