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Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Geneva meet waiting on labour union input

Union leaders attend a legal conference on Sunday in Phnom Penh to discuss the Union Law. Photo supplied
Union leaders attend a legal conference on Sunday in Phnom Penh to discuss the Union Law. Photo supplied

Geneva meet waiting on labour union input

An International Labour Organization official on Sunday urged local unions to present their views on the contentious Trade Union Law to the body’s Committee of Experts, a request that has so far found little traction.

The ILO’s Committee of Experts will meet in Geneva, Switzerland, on November 23 and take up the government’s report on the recently promulgated Union Law. The committee routinely assesses reports on legislation passed by member states and measures its compliance with ratified ILO conventions.

At a meeting of independent and pro-government unionists on Sunday, Alain Pelcé, a senior international labour standards and labour law specialist with the ILO, said he again pushed unions to send a letter to the committee, which would be then considered during their assessment of the Union Law.

“I was at the meeting yesterday and insisted again in my presentation on the importance for the Committee of Experts to have the views of the unions,” he said, via email.

Pelcé had made a similar recommendation to unions at a meeting in early November to mark six months since the law’s passage. He added that it was still not too late to send the letter, because all the unions needed to do was email their complaints to the committee.

The Trade Union Law has been widely criticised by international unions and labour groups – including the ILO – for restricting workers’ rights to organise and for flouting core labour conventions.However, unionists reached yesterday were still unsure of whether they would heed Pelcé’s suggestion.

Yang Sophorn, president of the Cambodian Alliance of Trade Unions, said unions were unhappy with the law’s implementation so far – especially the burdensome documentation needed to form new unions – and was considering sending a letter.

“Ideally, we want to send it before the meeting, but there may not be time,” she said. “We will instead present it to the ILO team that will meet us early next year.”

The Cambodian Labour Confederation’s Ath Thorn said he was unaware of the meeting in Switzerland and was not sending a complaint letter, as he had already expressed his displeasure with the union law to the ILO.

William Conklin, director of labour advocacy group Solidarity Center, said sending a letter would be a good move as long as unions can produce relevant evidence to back up their grouses.

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