Ensuring harmony in industrial relations is a priority set out in the Strategic Plan for Employment Development and Vocational Training 2019-2023 to contribute to the successful implementation of the government’s Rectangular Strategy Phase IV.

Minister of Labour and Vocational Training Ith Samheng made the remarks during the opening ceremony of the Tripartite Consultative Workshop on Procedures for Individual Dispute Settlement by the Arbitration Council, held in Phnom Penh on November 15.

The workshop – organised by the ministry in collaboration with the International Labour Organisation (ILO) – was attended in-person and virtually by representatives of relevant state institutions, the Arbitration Council and Arbitration Council Foundation, Employers’ Association, Cambodian Confederation of Unions, as well as national and international chambers of commerce.

“Under our high commitment, industrial relations in Cambodia in the last 10 years have been recognised as more mature, which ensures harmony and attractiveness for national and international investors,” Samheng said.

According to the minister, the settlement rate for labour disputes through the conciliation offices of his ministry has been steadily increasing due to the “effectiveness and capacity of the mediators”.

“Joint labour disputes that are not resolved by the ministry’s conciliation officers are sent to the Arbitration Council for resolution. The Arbitration Council is an institution that resolves out-of-court labour disputes and handles 70 per cent of joint labour disputes referred by the ministry,” he said.

According to a ministry report issued in October, it has resolved many individual and joint labour disputes in factories over the past five years with positive results as labour strikes have been reduced to 0.1 per cent of previous incidents.

Union and labour activists have in the past countered that the low incidence of labour strikes was not a function of workplace harmony or the work of the Arbitration Council, but rather the result of overly-restrictive and punitive measures enacted to prevent demonstrations in public.

The ministry said the resolution rate of individual disputes at the ministry level continues to increase, reflecting the effectiveness of labour dispute resolution mechanisms and the improvement of the capacity of conciliation officers.

For joint dispute settlement, ministry spokesman Heng Sour said the fruitful resolution at the enterprise and ministry level has also increased.

“In 2022, the rate of settlement for joint labour disputes increases to 60 per cent at the ministry level and over 30 per cent at the Arbitration Council level,” he said at a press conference in early October.