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Draft union law is sent out for consultations

A WORKING group charged with creating Cambodia’s first-ever law on trade unions has sent a draft to worker and employee representatives, asking for their recommendations in the hope that the legislation can be adopted early next year.

Oum Mean, a secretary of state at the Ministry of Labour, said the initial draft was completed last week.

“We sent the draft law to the factory and worker representatives, in order for them to discuss among themselves whether they agree with the law or not,” he said.

The parties now have roughly one and a half months to examine the draft law and formulate recommendations on how to improve it. Oum Mean said the draft legislation is designed to build on the existing Labour Law, expanding regulations concerning the roles and rights of unions and employers.

“This law is important for the protection of both workers and employers,” he said.

Cambodian Confederation of Unions President Rong Chhun said he thought the draft targeted unions while protecting employers and the government.

“I think that some articles in the law seem to pressure union leaders. This law does not guarantee freedom to the union leaders,” he said.

Rong Chhun took particular issue with provisions requiring unions to file financial reports, including both income and expenses, with the government every year. Unions face the revocation of their statuses if they fail to comply.

Chuon Momthol, president of the Cambodian Union Federation, had higher praise for the draft law. He said “70 to 80 percent” of it was positive, though he expressed concern that transitional requirements could force existing unions to reapply for union status when the new law comes into effect.

Sandra D’Amico, vice president of the Cambodian Federation of Employers and Business Associations (CAMFEBA), said her group believes articles on collective bargaining in the draft law need to be further refined or clarified.

But she said the law’s creation would be a positive development, especially if more stringent regulations help to consolidate Cambodia’s many unions. Labour Ministry statistics, she said, show there are at least 1,725 trade unions across the country.

“The law will hopefully encourage a responsible and accountable union movement, which will result in a healthier trade union movement,” she said.

ADDITIONAL REPORTING BY CATHERINE JAMES

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