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March target for union law

The Labour Ministry will finalise the Kingdom’s first law on trade unions in March, an official said, speaking on the sidelines of a three-day consultation on the law that began yesterday.

Sath Samoth, undersecretary of state at the ministry, said the draft law would be sent to the Council of Ministers around the end of March, after officials had considered concerns raised during this week’s meetings.

“We will send this draft two months later, [in] March,” he said. “The draft still concerns some of the unions, but we will try to reduce the disadvantages of this draft.”

Speaking during the meeting, Labour Minister Vong Soth said the new law was designed to improve relations between employers and employees, and to make Cambodia an “attractive investment” option for businesses.

“We are making efforts to accelerate this draft to the Interior Ministry and the Council of Ministers for approval,” he said.

Rong Chhun, the head of the Cambodian Confederation of Unions, told the meeting that provisions unions had raised concerns about last year had not been removed from the latest version of the draft law, which was circulated by the ministry this month.

“In the first and second meetings, a group of unions suggested to cancel some of articles 18, 19 and 30 because they affect union freedoms,” he said.

Rong Chhun expressed particular concerns about Article 30, which he said would allow courts to “melt unions if they find fault with the [union] staff”.

“It is not suitable,” he said. “If the court finds fault with staff, the court must sentence the staff, not melt the union like this.”

According to an unofficial translation of the latest version of the draft law seen by The Post this week, Article 30 states: “A competent court may dissolve a trade union or association where leaders, managers, and those responsible for the administration, or agents or members performing works on behalf of the trade union or association have committed wrongdoing” of certain types.

In response to Rong Chhun’s concerns, Sath Samoth told the meeting that there was still time for such issues to be addressed before the draft was finalised.

“It is a third consultation, so we can consider adjusting and cancelling some articles before sending [the draft] to the Council of Ministers,” he said. “We must be transparent about this draft.”

Vong Soth said the draft law would also be sent to International Labour Organisation headquarters in Switzerland for consultation prior to being finalised. “I will … send this draft to Geneva so they can look at it, because we need consultation of all sizes to make an affective law,” he said.

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