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Meetings over law leave unions wanting

Union leaders host a press conference about the draft trade union law at the American Center for International Labor Solidarity office yesterday in Phnom Penh.
Union leaders host a press conference about the draft trade union law at the American Center for International Labor Solidarity office yesterday in Phnom Penh. Pech Sotheary

Meetings over law leave unions wanting

Unions yesterday called for further discussion of the draft trade union law after a bipartisan committee tasked with examining the controversial legislation concluded on Tuesday having agreed to few substantive changes.

At a press conference in Phnom Penh, 14 unions and rights groups issued a statement characterising the committee as “producing unsatisfactory results in response to the unions’ proposals”.

The statement urged the government to delay the adoption of the law and to incorporate the unions’ 17 remaining points of contention.

Ath Thorn, president of the Coalition of Cambodian Apparel Workers’ Democratic Union, said unions would request to meet with Prime Minister Hun Sen, Labour Minister Ith Samheng and National Assembly President Heng Samrin.

“If we would be able to meet all those parties, it means we are satisfied, because we have done our best and it is a democratic process,” Thorn said.

The committee achieved few of the changes unions had hoped for. A reduction in requirements for forming union federations and confederations seemed like a meagre concession, while another change increasing the minimum age of union leaders from 18 to 25 was opposed by unions outright.

Meanwhile, contentious provisions, such as one requiring a union to have a 50 per cent plus one member quorum before voting to go on strike, remain firmly in place.

Sok Eysan, head of the ruling Cambodian People’s Party’s wing of the committee, said unions could raise their concerns in a workshop about the law to be held at an unspecified date.

“We do not block their way,” he said.