The National Assembly on Tuesday unanimously approved the draft law on amendments to 10 articles of the Law on Trade Unions without making any changes – a move that some unions said failed to address workers’ concerns.
Reading a prepared statement during the plenary session attended by 107 lawmakers, government representatives said the law was amended at the request of all stakeholders including employers, unions and the International Labour Organisation (ILO).
The law, they said, is in line with the international conventions that Cambodia had ratified.
According to the statement, unions and other relevant parties requested an amendment to the law so that it better promoted workers’ rights to freedom of association and corresponded to current social and economic development.
To that end, Minister of Labour and Vocational Training Ith Sam Heng said the government had formed a legal working group to formulate a draft law on amendments to Articles 3, 17, 20, 21, 27-29, 54, 55 and 59 of the law.
“[The law] eases procedures for union registration. For Cambodian workers, the new Articles 20 and 21 no longer require them to declare their education level before registration or require them to at least be able to read and write Khmer.
“For foreign workers/employees and employers who wish to hold managerial or administrative positions in a professional association or union, they are no longer required to declare beforehand that they have been cleared of a conviction for a misdemeanour or a felony.
“[The law] eases procedures for maintaining union registration by not requiring them to submit reports of their activities and finance to the ministry in charge of labour.
“But [the ministry] has an obligation to audit these reports in case there is a request from any member or donor as stipulated in the new Articles 17 and 27.
“The law also eases procedures for the dissolution of a union or professional association. It is automatically dissolved in case an enterprise or establishment where it is based closes down and has paid wages and other benefits for workers/employees as stipulated in the new Article 28,” he said.
Speaking to reporters after the bill was passed, Sam Heng said it will offer better protection for workers.
“We have made a lot of efforts. This amendment is based on the request of both unions and other relevant parties. It cannot satisfy all parties, but at least it is much better than before,” he said.
The same statement said the draft law is key to ensuring the rights and freedom of professional associations, and in implementing the government’s policy of linking international trade to working conditions, which will help promote competition and attract investment.
That, the statement said, will, in turn, create jobs for workers/employees and showed the government’s commitment to promoting labour rights of workers/employees in line with international standards.
The statement said as of September this year, a total of 1,692 professional organisations had been registered with the Ministry of Labour and Vocational Training. Among them, 1,566 were local unions, 106 were union federations, 15 were union confederations and five were employer associations.
Pav Sina, the president of the Collective Union of Movement of Workers, said the government had not fully accepted input from unions. He said the new law still poses challenges for unions as there were not many changes to it.
“The amendment made to this trade union law did not follow our input. So this law still causes as many obstacles as before because its content was not changed. Only spelling and wording had been changed, nothing else.
“The law does not serve the interests of workers as it reduces the power of workers and unions that represent them,” he said.
Cambodian Labour Confederation president Ath Thon could not be reached for comment on Tuesday.