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Union law debated

Lawmakers attend a meeting at the National Assembly in Phnom Penh yesterday to discuss the union law.
Lawmakers attend a meeting at the National Assembly in Phnom Penh yesterday to discuss the union law. Heng Chivoan

Union law debated

The first meeting of a bipartisan committee to work out criticisms of the controversial draft trade union law resulted in what unions considered meagre concessions, although the opposition hailed the process’ cooperative spirit.

According to Sok Eysan, spokesman for the ruling Cambodian People’s Party and chief of the CPP’s wing of the committee, both parties agreed to reduce the number of unions required to form a federation from nine to seven and the number of federations required to form a confederation from six to five.

Additionally, a clause requiring unions to provide their bank account information within 30 days of their registration date was extended to 45 days.

Son Chhay, chief of the opposition Cambodia National Rescue Party’s wing of the committee, said the parties could not find a compromise yet on a highly controversial clause in the law’s Article 13, which requires a union to have a 50 per cent plus one member quorum for any decision to go on strike.

Meanwhile, although unions have pushed for informal sector workers and public servants to be allowed to form unions in the law, Chhay said the parties “agreed to push for a separate law for informal workers”.

Unions, who have denounced the draft union law for making it easier for authorities to de-register them, said the concessions were insufficient.

“I think the committee tackled some problems but not the main points that the unions proposed,” said Ath Thorn, president of the Coalition of Cambodian Apparel Workers’ Democratic Union.

Thorn said tabling the strike quorum clause in Article 13 and the lack of any mention of Article 14, which considers all activities of de-listed or unregistered unions “illegal”, was particularly concerning, adding that the move to decrease federation and confederation requirements would have little effect.

Sar Mora, president of the Cambodian Food and Service Workers Federations, also condemned the move to address the organising rights of informal workers in a different law.

“This law is about union rights [in general], so why would they need a separate law?”

Unions have some time to press their concerns, however. The joint committee’s next meeting is scheduled for January 13, both sides announced.

The CNRP’s Chhay praised the process’ bipartisan spirit, saying he was “happy that the government does not want to have this law urgently”.

“The CNRP will not make a habit out of walking out from parliament if there is such consultation [with the CPP].”

Chheng Niem

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