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Labour Minister Ith Sam Heng (right) shares a laugh during a meeting with representatives of Ethical Trading International yesterday in Phnom Penh.
Labour Minister Ith Sam Heng (right) shares a laugh during a meeting with representatives of Ethical Trading International yesterday in Phnom Penh. Sahiba Chawdhary

Labour Ministry says it will scrap clauses from law

The Labour Ministry yesterday announced that it will scrap a contentious clause from a proposed minimum wage law that would have prevented any independent research into the annual negotiation process, as well as the draft labour dispute resolution law.

The changes should somewhat quell criticism of the draft minimum wage law, which looks to establish a universal base wage across sectors, though contentious articles remain, including two proposals to impose fines for protesting or expressing dissatisfaction with the wage.

Speaking to reporters after meeting with a coalition of garment brands, Labour Minister Ith Sam Heng said the ministry had decided to drop Article 16 – the independent research clause – after receiving complaints from various stakeholders, including local unions.

“Now we have decided to remove that article and the parties or organisations can either ask permission or not ask to conduct their surveys,” he said.

Additionally, he said the draft of a law regulating labour dispute resolutions had been dropped. The law looked to establish labour courts, which are mandated by the Labour Law, as well as unions that can represent workers in disputes. Instead, the Arbitration Council will continue to handle union-employer disputes.

Labour Minister Ith Sam Heng speaks to the press yesterday in Phnom Penh.
Labour Minister Ith Sam Heng speaks to the press yesterday in Phnom Penh. Sahiba Chawdhary

“The partners are loyal to the system of dispute resolution by the Arbitration Council that [they say] is valuable and trustworthy. So the government and Ministry of Labour has decided to follow the same system of using the Arbitration Council,” Sam Heng said, following a meeting with UK-based brand coalition Ethical Trade Initiative (ETI), which represents brands like Marks & Spencer, Gap, and H&M.

ETI Executive Director Peter McAllister said he met with Sam Heng to reinforce the coalition’s support for the Cambodian garment sector and was pleased to learn of the changes.

“We had sent a number of concerns to the Ministry of Labour. We’re looking forward to seeing the change, and if there are any other issues to raise we hope that we can have an open dialogue with the Ministry,” he said.
McAllister declined to comment on the effects of an ongoing political crackdown and its potential impact on Cambodia’s exports.

Sar Mora, president of the Cambodian Food and Service Workers Federation, said discarding the labour dispute law was welcome as there were issues deciding which unions would represent workers.

“I positively believe that other concerns with the [minimum wage law] will be solved as well,’’ Mora said.

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