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Gov’t revises trade union law

Ith Sam Heng, minister of labour, talks to officials yesterday in Phnom Penh during a meeting about the trade union draft law at the Ministry of Labour.
Ith Sam Heng, minister of labour, talks to officials yesterday in Phnom Penh during a meeting about the trade union draft law at the Ministry of Labour. Vireak Mai

Gov’t revises trade union law

Several of the more contentious points from Cambodia’s draft trade union law have been dropped, a pro-government union leader said yesterday, although at least one major union remains unsatisfied with the pending legislation.

Minister of Labour Ith Sam Heng told reporters yesterday that the law was “90 per cent” complete and would be sent to the Council of Ministers next month.

“We will try our best to have an agreement from everyone on this law and make conflicts a small thing,” he said on the sidelines of the fourth and final meeting with stakeholders on the law, a meeting the Free Trade Union sat out, having declared it “useless”.

Speaking after the meeting in Phnom Penh, Som Aun, president of the pro-government Cambodian Council of National Unions (CCNU), said that the draft law was an improvement over the current Labour Law.

“Most of the points that the unions were concerned about were solved and dropped,” Aun said.

According to Aun, a previous clause that stipulated that 20 per cent of a factory needed to sign on for a union to be created had been reduced to 10 per cent, while unions no longer need to apply for a licence to operate and union leaders will no longer need to provide a letter about their criminal record.

Aun said that if the law made it to the National Assembly as it stood now, he would support it.

However, not all stakeholders were pleased with the negotiations.

Ath Thorn, president of the Coalition of Cambodian Apparel Workers’ Democratic Union – one of several independent unions registering their displeasure yesterday – said that he still did not support the law.

“Frankly, I do not want this law to be passed,” Ath Thorn said.

“Although some points that we were concerned about were removed, it still has some that we do not like, such as trade unions having to report their finances to the ministry every year, and 25 per cent of members being able to dissolve their own union, and some others.”

Ath Thorn added that he was unsure whether the ministry would allow union members to read the final draft of the legislation.

“We have requested to see the last draft law and to [offer final] advice before the law is sent to the Council of Ministers, and we are not satisfied if we do not get this,” he said.

“We are waiting to see if the minister will provide the last draft law for us or not.”

Ath Thorn said that his union would protest if the remaining points of concern did not change.

Ministry of Labour spokesman Heng Sour said yesterday that the law, aimed at regulating the Kingdom’s 3,400 trade unions, was expected to be approved this year after spending about eight years at the draft stage.

“The draft law will be sent to the Council of Ministers after it is finished at the inter-ministerial level, but now it is still there. It should be approved this year,” Heng Sour said.

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