Minister of Labour and Vocational Training Ith Sam Heng urged that further study be done regarding the challenges involved with labour dispute resolution to ensure the harmony of relations between Cambodian workers and their employers in all industries.

Sam Heng made the call during a tripartite forum on the future of labour dispute resolution organised by the Arbitration Council on December 13 and attended by representatives from the labour ministry, the International Labour Organisation (ILO), the Arbitration Council, the Arbitration Council Foundation, trade unions and international buyers.

The forum was conducted to review Cambodia’s achievements and its challenges related to strengthening the country’s process of resolving labour disputes, in particular the implementation of joint labour dispute resolution mechanisms by the Arbitration Council.

Sam Heng urged the Arbitration Council to responsibly seek solutions that both sides can agree to in common on a case-by-case basis.

“Stakeholders should consider the law’s basis and our common interest in ensuring the harmony of Cambodia’s industrial relations, which is a key factor for attracting investment,” he said.

The minister also urged all parties involved to place their confidence in the Arbitration Council’s decisions based on their track record of providing solutions for disputes transparently and in accordance with the law and applicable regulations.

He encouraged an increase in financial support from all parties for the Arbitration Council, but not if it involves an organisation that relies on funding from workers thereby reducing their pay because of the negative impact they have on worker-employer relations and the living standard of workers.

Men Nimit, executive director of the Arbitration Council Foundation, said that in the past 18 years, about 3,000 disputes have come to the Arbitration Council for resolution and 75 per cent of them were successfully resolved.

“The common types of disputes that were resolved were those between workers and employers related to dismissal, the imposition of fees and overtime pay,” he said.

Apart from that, he said there are also disputes related to discrimination or breastfeeding women being accommodated and various conflicts of interest.

“We only have 15 days to settle them under the law. But if the parties agree to request more time for the arbitration due to complications, we can extend it for another 15 days. Then we issue an order declaring the winner,” he said.

Youth Protect of Cambodian Workers Rights Confederation president Long Sophat said the Arbitration Council was established by the labour laws and it has provided effective solutions.

“Since the establishment of the Arbitration Council, we have seen that the process of resolving labour disputes as a whole is effective, leading to harmony in our workplaces. Employers and workers meet with the Arbitration Council if they have a dispute before deciding to go to court,” he said.