Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Ministry defends wage law




Ministry defends wage law

Factory workers protest in Phnom Penh’s Meanchey district late last year, calling for an increase to the garment industry’s minimum wage.
Factory workers protest in Phnom Penh’s Meanchey district late last year, calling for an increase to the garment industry’s minimum wage. Heng Chivoan

Ministry defends wage law

Labour Ministry spokesman Heng Sour has defended the first draft of a new universal minimum wage law – which was widely criticised earlier this week as having a potentially chilling effect on unions and civil society – saying that the draft’s most controversial provisions were drawn from pre-existing legislation.

Though the law would allow for Cambodia’s first-ever minimum wage for workers outside the garment sector, trade union leaders and civil society members this week expressed concerns over articles 25 and 26, which carry stiff fines for dissent to or obstruction of decisions by the minimum wage council. Under the law, the tripartite council would deliberate and set the minimum wage each year.

“If people are complaining about the draft law, then they should complain about the penalties in the Labour Law,” Sour said yesterday, going on to say that similar provisions also existed in the Trade Union Law. He added that none of the union leaders at a presentation of the draft to stakeholders on Monday expressed alarm at the fines.

“If there’s a complaint, they should have raised it yesterday or on December 16,” Sour said, referring to an upcoming meeting of stakeholders to discuss the draft.

Specifically addressing Article 26 of the draft, which would set a 10 million riel ($2,500) fine for anyone inciting “activities against the declaration of the minimum wage council”, he said that the council’s declarations would constitute a collective bargaining agreement (CBA) as codified under the Trade Union Law.

CBAs, he continued, are “legally binding, and if other unions go against them, then they are breaking the law”. Observers, however, took little comfort yesterday in Sour’s reassurance that these measures were already on the books, with one noting that the laws in question had been passed over widespread objections from stakeholders.

“We find all these laws . . . restrictive and detrimental to people’s rights to express and raise key issues affecting millions,” said Naly Pilorge, deputy director of advocacy at rights group Licadho.

“An annual assessment of the minimum wage is long overdue. However, we question the inclusion of heavy fines potentially punishing workers, unions and NGOs. Vague provisions threatening large fines for ‘creating obstacles’ and ‘incitement’ will probably be used to target unions and workers and must be removed.”

Piseth Duch, advocacy director and coordinator of the Cambodia Centre for Human Rights’ Business and Human Rights project, was equally concerned and said that while complaints had been raised by civil society over similar articles in pre-existing laws, they were often ignored by the government.

In an email yesterday, he suggested that the proposed fines could deter union leaders from organising strikes or protests.“If these fines are approved, [they] would not be consistent with international human rights standards, especially [International Labour Organization] conventions.”

But the Labour Ministry’s Sour dismissed concerns that the right to strike or protest would be curtailed. “Any strike or demonstration that is allowed by law could still take place,” he said.

MOST VIEWED

  • School reopening to be postponed until November

    Minister of Education Hang Chuon Naron on Tuesday wrote to Prime Minister Hun Sen requesting a delay of school reopening across the Kingdom until November, when the new academic year begins. In his letter, Chuon Naron said the postponement is warranted to avoid the new

  • Foreigners in Kingdom must now register in FPCS system

    The Ministry of Interior’s General Department of Immigration (GDI) announced that it would not grant visa extensions to foreigners staying in Cambodia if their names are not listed on the Foreigners Present in Cambodia System (FPCS) by July 1. Foreign nationals can register in the

  • Covid-19 at ‘alarming rate’, health ministry says

    The Covid-19 risk level for individual transmission is at an “alarming rate” in the Kingdom and its probability is “not low”, warned Health Ministry spokesperson Or Vandine. “Cambodia’s coronavirus scenario is classified as being at an early stage of the pandemic because of ongoing

  • Mandatory quarantine for 30,000 workers begins

    Some of the roughly 30,000 workers from factories and enterprises across the Kingdom who went on leave during Khmer New Year began their government-imposed 14-day quarantine on Monday. Speaking at a press conference while visiting workers at the Phnom Penh Special Economic Zone on Monday, Ministry

  • Unemployed to get $40 per month

    The Ministry of Labour and Vocational Training has instructed enterprises, business owners and travel agencies in five provinces to prepare the proper forms for the suspension of employment contracts. This, it said, will make it easier for the ministry to transfer $40 a month to workers

  • Gov’t travel ban flouted

    While the majority of Cambodians have paid heed to Prime Minister Hun Sen’s order to stay put and not travel during the Khmer New Year – the holidays of which were also postponed – several hundred have left Phnom Penh nonetheless. They have allegedly breached provincial

  • G20 energy ministers struggle to finalise oil output cuts

    Top oil producers struggled to finalise production cuts during a virtual summit held by Group of 20 (G20) energy ministers on Friday, despite US President Donald Trump’s mediation efforts to end a standoff with Mexico. The final G20 communique appeared to gloss over simmering divisions

  • Kingdom revises travel restriction order

    The government on Friday eased the district and provincial border restrictions issued on Thursday. People are now allowed to cross districts within their provinces. Phnom Penh and Kandal province are to be treated as a single region where people are allowed to travel freely. In

  • Private schools struggling

    The Cambodian Higher Education Association has claimed that 113 private educational establishments are facing bankruptcy because of their inability to pay rent and staff salaries in light of nationwide school closures caused by the Covid-19 outbreak. It said the financial trouble started when the Ministry of

  • Khmer New Year holidays postponed

    In an effort to halt Covid-19 infections in the Kingdom, Prime Minister Hun Sen has postponed the Khmer New Year holidays scheduled from April 13 to 16. While the people will not have their usual break, nor will there be any public celebrations or gatherings at pagodas,