A BELGIUM-BASED labour group threatened to complain to the International Labour Organisation (ILO) over proposed amendments allowing for unlimited temporary work contracts, it said last week.
The International Textile, Garment and Leather Workers' Federation (ITGLWF) said the legal changes would allow temporary contracts to be extended indefinitely; the current maximum is two years. It says the changes would also undermine union recruitment and allow employers to fire workers without notice.
"The proposed amendments to the labour laws threaten to push back much of what has been achieved by making it almost impossible for workers to exercise the right of freedom of association. The ITGLWF is currently considering a formal complaint to the ILO," wrote ITGLWF General Secretary Neil Kearney on Saturday.
The ITGLWF says it has 220 affiliate unions worldwide, representing 10 million workers. Its local members include the Cambodia Union Federation, a registered union linked with the Cambodian People's Party.
Kearney sent a letter to Prime Minister Hun Sen last week urging the government to abandon the Labour Law changes.
Oum Mean, secretary of state of the Labour Ministry, said the proposed changes have been on the table since 2007 and that the officials have already consulted with NGOs and other stakeholders. "I have gone over the amendment with relevant parties, especially the employers, before the ITGLWF made its complaint," he said.
He added that workers' rights would be bolstered by the formation of a labour court, which the government had been working to form since 1997.
A spokesman for the Garment Manufacturers Association of Cambodia applauded the amendment. "This [amendment] is a great thing to prevent abuses by both employers and relevant parties," said External Affairs Manager Kaing Monika.
But the President of Free Union of Workers of The Kingdom of Cambodia, Chea Mony, said he opposes the amendments because they would allow employers to arbitrarily fire union members.