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Ministry and trade unions discuss law amendments

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Minister of Labour and Vocational Training Ith Sam Heng. Heng Chivoan

Ministry and trade unions discuss law amendments

Some 100 local and international representatives of labour unions on Thursday met with Ministry of Labour and Vocational Training legal experts to discuss draft amendments to 10 articles of the Law on Trade Unions. The 10 articles centre on the rights of workers and unions to hold demonstrations.

Addressing journalists on Thursday, Minister of Labour and Vocational Training Ith Sam Heng said some international unions and institutions continued to raise concerns about the registration of unions and the certification of top union representatives. They also expressed unease over articles they say are subject to legal restrictions.

“In order to resolve the issue, the ministry has held a series of technical meetings and consultation workshops to assess the implementation of the Trade Union Law, eventually leading to the proposed amendments to the 10 articles.

“The passage of these amendments relies on a consensus from all relevant parties. A consensus is important because the law not only relates to the freedom of unions but also [the interests of] employers.

“We also need to ensure that the trade union law does not conflict with other existing laws. Therefore, the sooner all relevant parties reach a consensus, the quicker the amendments will pass,” he said.

As of the first quarter of this year, Sam Heng said, there were 4,949 labour organisations registered with the ministry, of which 4,722 were local unions, 189 union federations and 29 confederation unions, while the rest were employers’ associations.

The minister said the number of labour-related disputes, including strikes and demonstrations, had remarkably decreased, thanks largely to the effective implementation of the Trade Union Law and the strengthening of inspections.

Ath Thon, president of the Cambodian Labour Confederation, said the latest discussion was more fruitful than previous meetings as the concerns raised by some 70 per cent of the participating unions were addressed. He called on the ministry to address their remaining concerns through further discussion and the acceptance of union input.

Thon said the outstanding issues involved workers’ right to assembly and hold strikes, among other union-related activities, and a clear stipulation as to the number of members required to register a union with the ministry.

Thon also urged the ministry to consider making the latest version of the draft law available for involved parties to review prior to a consultation workshop.

Som Aun, president of the National Union Alliance Chamber of Cambodia, said the joint drafting of the amendments offered a chance for involved parties to provide input beneficial to the labour sector in Cambodia.

Aun said unions had initially jointly requested amendments to 14 articles of the Trade Union Law. He said unions would continue to demand the inclusion of the other four articles in the amendments.

Tun Sophorn, national coordinator for the International Labour Organisation (ILO), told The Post on Thursday that he welcomed the participation of all relevant parties.

“I support the acceptance of input from all involved parties including unions, employers and the private sector. I think the minister will accept all the requests. The ministry also gives [unions] one month to request amendments to any of the 10 articles and for them to come up with any other requests,” he said.

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