Behind closed doors yesterday, government officials, union representatives and employers wrapped up a three-day meeting on a draft law that aims to regulate the country’s trade unions.
If approved, it would mark the first major revision of the country’s 1997 Labor Law. As it stands, the draft requires unions to register and file regular financial reports.
It would also give the government the authority to suspend and dissolve unions. But unions have called the requirements onerous and the government’s proposed new powers a threat to their independence.
Some have also complained that the draft included few of the amendments recommended after a similar meeting with the government last year, and expressed concern that this round would prove no different.
“If they [the government] think about the workers’ rights…they will change,” Ath Thon, president of the Cambodian Labor Confederation, said yesterday. “If they don’t feel like this, I don’t know.”
Others were more pessimistic.
“I think it was only a show for international observers and NGOs,” Free Trade Union president Chea Mony said afterward. “If we have a thousand more meetings, the government will still oppose the unions’ recommendations.”
Despite a promise of permission to attend the meeting from Labor Ministry Undersecretary of State Sath Samuth, reporters were barred from the discussion by event staff who refused to identify themselves.
But during a break in the meeting, Mr Samuth defended the draft.
“In my opinion, all of the unions only see one corner” of the law, he said. “Everything is OK.”
He said the ministry would still consider any recommendations from the unions that did not confer undue advantage to any side.
“We do not deny all their requests, only those providing advantage to employers or employees, because the government is an arbitrator and seeks compromise between them,” he said.
After any additional changes, he said, the government would send the draft to Geneva for recommendations from the International Labor Organization.