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Unions warn of strikes over legal amendment

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Labour unions send letter to the government warning of industrial action over changes in law on temporary contracts

Photo by:

Heng Chivoan

A garment factory outside of Phnom Penh. Labour unions warn that employees will be liable to dismissal according to legal changes that extend temporary contracts.

CAMBODIAN labour unions have issued a joint statement to the government opposing a proposed Labour Law amendment that would extend the use of temporary employment contracts and warned of nationwide strikes if it did not back down.

Ath Thorn, president of the Cambodia Labour Confederation (CLC), told a press conference at the International Labour Organisation's Phnom Penh office Monday that the change would result in workers losing legal protection.

"Workers will lose a lot of advantages such as year-end benefits, maternity leave and other benefits," he said. "There will be strikes once the law has been passed."

The joint statement was signed by the Cambodia Confederation of Trade Unions (CCTU), the CLC, the National Union Alliance Chamber of Cambodia, the Cambodian National Labour Confederation, and the International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC) Asia Pacific. The unions represent more than one million workers across Cambodia in a range of sectors.

Workers will lose ... advantages such as year-end benefits, maternity leave.

Officials said they hoped the statement would force the ministry to discuss the issue at a public meeting scheduled for Thursday.
Under the Cambodian Labour Law 1997, any employee that has worked with a company for more than two years is automatically considered a permanent - or undetermined duration - employee. The unions say the amendment would allow temporary contracts to be extended indefinitely making it easier for employers to hire and fire workers.

Noriyuki Suzuki, general secretary of ITUC-Asia Pacific, which sponsored the statement, said the main concern was over proposed amendments to Articles 67 and 73 governing contract durations and notice on the renewal and expiration of contracts. He said the changes would enable employers to terminate contracts without justifiable reasons and that they would also have serious consequences for normal trade union activities and the employment of union activists and pregnant women.

"It would make employment extremely unstable by allowing the companies to easily adjust employment according to normal fluctuations of the business cycle," he said.

CCTU President Chuon Mom Thol said the proposed amendment would be a big loss for workers.

"Government should take one or two steps back during the current crisis and should not be too rushed to pass this law unless it has been discussed or widely supported," he said.

Oum Mean, secretary of state of the Labour Ministry, told the Post last month the proposed changes have been on the table since 2007 and that officials had consulted widely with NGOs and other stakeholders.

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