At 10th Anniversary, Arbitration Council Faces Funding Shortage

The Arbitration Council, an independent body that resolves labor disputes in Cambodia’s garment sector, celebrated its 10th anniversary on Tuesday, though officials expressed concern that funding for the body was due to run out in March next year.

Oum Mean, secretary of state at the Ministry of Labor, said that the Arbitration Council currently receives all its funds from the World Bank’s good governance project and that more funds are needed to ensure the body—which has resolved nearly 1,500 industrial disputes—survives.

“I strongly hope that [donors] will continue to support the sustainability of the Arbitration Council,” he said in a speech at a conference marking the anniversary.

Speaking after the conference, Mr. Mean said it was not the responsibility of the government to fund the body but that of the Arbitration Council itself.

“It is not the ministry’s issue to find funds for the council; it’s for the council themselves,” he said.

Alassane Sow, country manager for the World Bank, would not be drawn on whether the financial institution would fund the Ar­bitration Council beyond March 2014.

“Like any institution, the Arbitration Council…will need to work toward independence and self-reliance. In this respect, [the government], the trade uni­ons…and the ever-increasing list of employers should take an increased role in helping to sustain [it],” he said in a speech.

Ly Tayseng, director of the Arbitration Council’s board of directors, said the body was deeply concerned that nobody had yet come forward to fund the institution.

“The board of directors…is greatly concerned about the financial sustainability of the Arbitration Council…and long-term funding for the future,” he said.

In the 10 years since funding from the International Labor Or­ganization helped establish the Arbitration Council, it has resolved nearly 1,500 industrial disputes involving more than 600,000 workers. It also claims an 80 percent success rate in preventing strikes during negotiations.

(Additional reporting by Chin Chan)

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