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Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - All sides air union law views

People protest against the draft trade union law yesterday in front of the National Assembly.
People protest against the draft trade union law yesterday in front of the National Assembly. Heng Chivoan

All sides air union law views

Unions, employers and government officials from both sides of the political divide had their say yesterday during a public forum at the National Assembly to discuss the controversial draft union law, with officials concluding they will consider all suggestions at a further review with two of the assembly’s commissions today.

Unions, who claim the law is designed to repress their activities and restrict worker freedoms, acknowledged yesterday that some concerns have been addressed, but said clauses relating to the right to protest, the number of workers needed to strike and the financial reporting requirements of unions still needed further debate.

“The result of the changes cannot be accepted by the union, and the draft still contains obstacles for the union,” Ath Thorn, president of the Coalition of Cambodian Apparel Workers’ Democratic Union, told the workshop yesterday.

Thorn also called on the government to allocate 2 per cent of the national budget to developing the union movement.Collective Union of Movement of Workers president Pav Sina called on the government to ensure unions would be able to review the draft before it was passed.

The Garment Manufacturers Association of Cambodia have pushed for their own changes to the law, including lifting the threshold on the number of workers required to form a union to at least 20 per cent of the factory floor, empowering the Ministry of Labour – rather than the courts – to determine if unions have engaged in unlawful behaviour, and demanding union heads be required to have at least a grade nine education.

“With the entire situation of the unions in Cambodia, we all have to admit that we have excessive freedom,” said GMAC deputy secretary Kaing Monika.

Monika said there were 3,366 unions in Cambodia, which he described as “anarchy”.

“We do not know which union has expired and which union has the right of negotiation, or who represents [unions in] the whole nation,” he said.

Labour Minister Ith Samheng, defended the law yesterday as necessary to ensure that freedom of organisation was consistent with Cambodian law and international norms.

“We will collect and note down all the comments for further discussion with the commissions of the National Assembly,” he assured the crowd. “And if we can do it, we will make changes based on these concerns to resolve people’s concerns.”

Cambodia National Rescue Party lawmaker Son Chhay, who represented the opposition in a review of the law, said some progress had been made on the draft law but there was still work to do. “The draft does not guarantee easiness without discrimination on people when exercising their rights,” he said.

Officials said the requested amendments would be taken to the law and justice committee and a committee relating to labour today.

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