Lawmakers Wrap Up Union Law Debate With Mixed Results

An ad hoc committee of CPP and CNRP lawmakers held their third and final meeting on a draft union law on Tuesday but remain far apart on several controversial provisions.

The law will set new rules for how unions are formed, run and dissolved and has drawn fire from all sides; unions fear it’s too tough while employers say it’s not tough enough. The ruling CPP formed a bipartisan committee last month to try and reach a consensus with the opposition on some of the most contentious parts of the bill before putting it to a vote.

After Tuesday’s closed-door meeting, CNRP lawmaker Son Chhay said the opposition was able to convince the CPP to change about half of the 21 articles they parsed over the course of their three meetings.

“We did not fully agree on any of that; some of them were compromised,” he said. “We were able to get at least 50 percent of them amended.”

He said the CPP agreed to extend the length of time after registration that unions will have to provide the government with their bank account details, for example, and to cut the number of unions needed to form a federation from nine to seven. Mr. Chhay said the CPP also agreed to clarify some provisions, including one about who can ask for a union to be audited; the opposition wants to change “relevant parties” to union members and union donors.

But the opposition lawmaker said his team failed to get the CPP to budge on some of the provisions the unions fear most, including an article that would give a proposed labor court the power to dissolve a union for the infractions of a single leader.

“I said it is ridiculous, it’s unacceptable,” Mr. Chhay said. “They should be punished according to the law, but the union should remain and [members] can select a new one.”

CPP lawmaker and party spokesman Sok Eysan was short on details about what the committee achieved but said it would be up to the Labor Ministry to actually make the changes they discussed over the past month before the bill comes back to the National Assembly for a vote.

Among the most controversial provisions of the draft is a proposed threshold for forming a local union, currently set at 10 people. Some unions want the law to have no threshold whatsoever. Employers want the floor set at 20 percent of the employees at any given worksite.

But Mr. Eysan said on Tuesday that the threshold would remain 10 people.

Once the Labor Ministry redrafts the bill, he said, the Assembly will host another public workshop for input before scheduling a vote.

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