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Universal minimum wage law drops contentious punitive measures

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Government, employer and union representatives attend a consultation meeting on the draft universal minimum wage law in Phnom Penh on Tuesday. Pha Lina

Universal minimum wage law drops contentious punitive measures

A recent draft of the universal minimum wage law handed to unions and employers on Tuesday saw the removal of controversial clauses written into earlier versions that penalised individuals for protesting or putting pressure on the wage determination process.

The draft law looks to bring other labour sectors under the minimum wage umbrella, which is currently reserved only for garment and footwear workers. However, the draft has been met with criticism for potentially stifling unions’ rights to assembly and association.

Articles 25 and 26, for instance, imposed fines on anyone putting “obstacles” or “illegal pressure” on the wage determination process and for protesting the determined wage, respectively. The two articles were missing from the latest draft of the law, released on Tuesday.

Unions and labour rights groups, who had raised concerns over the articles, welcomed the removal of the two clauses, which they maintained infringed on workers’ right to assembly.

“There are some positive improvements in the latest draft that reflect trade unions’ concerns on critical articles relating to administrative actions and penalties, with articles 25 and 26 now being abolished,” said Khun Tharo, senior program officer at the labour rights group Solidarity Center.

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Tharo said that minor changes to the wording of 10 other articles were proposed at Tuesday’s meeting, but the ministry said this would be the final draft. Labour Minister Ith Sam Heng had said in January that all parties had already agreed to a final draft, which ended up being revised.

Late last year, the Labour Ministry also scrapped another contentious article that would have forbidden any independent research into the annual wage negotiation process without prior approval from the ministry.

Employer representative Sok Lor said stakeholders seemed to accept the current draft, which still contains some penalties for employers for violating sections of the law, including the requirement to pay the minimum wage.

“We are still discussing this today [Tuesday] and we don’t want to comment yet as there may be some more changes or improvements” he said.

Sok Kin, president of construction union Building and Wood Workers Trade Union of Cambodia, said two other articles allowing for punishments for questioning the criteria used to determine the minimum wage did not worry unions.

“We had asked for 11 changes and the ministry has removed two articles. But we are okay with the other articles because they do not concern us,” he said.

Labour Ministry spokesman Heng Sour did not respond to a request for comment.

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