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No union for workers in food biz

After the Ministry of Labour denied a food service union official registration, a union official is crying foul, asserting that authorities are discriminating against her group – a charge the government denies.

The Cambodian Food and Service Worker Federation (CFSWF), a 4,000-member union representing workers in the food and beverage industry, including beer promoters, was refused official recognition as a union yesterday, said Tep Phalin, a CFSWF deputy.

According to Phalin, Labour Ministry officials said the current state of labour unions is too volatile for the ministry to register a new union.

“When we tried to register with the Ministry of Labour, they claimed that right now the country’s situation is bad, and they could not approve our certificate,” she said.

“But we need legal permission from the Labour Ministry to defend our workers.”

CFSWF officials now fear operating without the Labour Ministry’s blessing in the wake of ministry threats of legal action against Rong Chhun for leading the Cambodian Confederation of Unions after being repeatedly denied certification, she said.

Labour Ministry deputy director-general Hou Vuthy yesterday said he was unfamiliar with the case. Sat Samoth, undersecretary of state at the ministry, said in an interview with Voice of Democracy that new rules require unions to meet directly with the minister.

Dave Welsh, country director for labour rights group Solidarity Center, said the denial was in line with a larger trend.

“This is a furthering of this assault on trade union rights we’ve seen over the past couple of weeks,” Welsh said.

ADDITIONAL REPORTING BY SEAN TEEHAN

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