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Employer body wants union law toughened

Union leaders gather outside the National Assembly in Phnom Penh late last year to deliver a petition against aspects of the draft trade union law.
Union leaders gather outside the National Assembly in Phnom Penh late last year to deliver a petition against aspects of the draft trade union law. Pha Lina

Employer body wants union law toughened

Cambodia's employers yesterday called for the draft trade union law to be toughened prior to a meeting with a government committee tasked with examining the controversial legislation.

But the employers’ recommendations were blasted by unions for threatening their right to assemble, while drawing criticism from the opposition Cambodia National Rescue Party, who alleged they had been excluded from the meeting.

In a bid to halt what it terms illegal strikes and disruptive minority unions, the Cambodian Federation of Employers and Business Associations made seven recommendations.

Most notably, CAMFEBA urged that a 10-person minimum for a union’s registration be upped to 20 per cent of a factory, reversing a concession made last July towards unions. The group also called for the Labour Ministry, and not just courts, to be granted the power to revoke a union’s licence.

“Enforcement of sanctions for illegal behaviors is almost non-existent today. Disruption of the workplace by outside minority unions has become common including harassment and intimidation of workers and employers,” a CAMFEBA statement reads.

But unions slammed the suggestions, saying they were intended to weaken them by handing authorities more control over their registration.

“The employers do not have the right to suggest to improve this law, because they have violated workers’ basic rights and still try to restrict unions,” said Ath Thorn, president of the Coalition of Cambodian Apparel Workers’ Democratic Union.

Another point of contention emerged after CAMFEBA only met with the ruling CPP’s wing of the committee, despite the body being officially bipartisan.

Son Chhay, head of the CNRP’s wing, said the opposition was deliberately “not invited” to the meeting because of “a kind of mindset from the garment sector that the trade unions are pro-opposition”.

However, CAMFEBA vice president Sandra D’Amico denied the CNRP was intentionally excluded, explaining that CAMFEBA’s request for a meeting was sent to the National Assembly rather than specific committee wings. “Our position is no secret to anybody,” she said.

Either way, both sides of the committee are scheduled to meet today for the third time. CPP spokesman Sok Eysan told reporters he had accepted CAMFEBA’s points for consideration.

“The workers’ interest is the most important one, but we also guarantee the right of the employer to run production smoothly, because if workers start many protests, employers will lose profit,” Eysan said.

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