The Garment Manufacturers Association in Cambodia (GMAC) issued a statement on Friday applauding the Ministry of Labor’s decision to start requiring union leaders to prove that they have a clean criminal record before registering new branches.
“[GMAC] would like to express its high appreciation and support on the Royal Government, especially the Ministry of Labor and Vocational Training on positive action toward enforcement of the Cambodian Labor Law concerning union registration,” says the statement, posted to GMAC’s website.
The statement cites article 269 of the Labor Law, passed in 1997, which says that leaders of professional organizations, including labor unions, must not “have been convicted of any crime.” The law has not previously been enforced.
“Stringent enforcement of all existing laws is to uphold the Rule of Law which all the citizens including local and foreign investors have always demanded and awaited for,” the GMAC statement says.
“This positive step with a clear vision will create a social, business and investment environment that is certain and favorable for economic development,” it continues.
Chea Mony, president of the opposition-aligned Free Trade Union, said last week that the Ministry of Labor had rejected requests to register new union branches, demanding to see a letter from the Ministry of Justice showing that union leaders have clean criminal records.
Mr. Mony said Sunday that the newly enforced regulation would only create opportunities for corruption and intimidation of union leaders.
“This is an act of discrimination against our unions,” Mr. Mony said.
Mr. Mony said that unions will likely be forced to wait months to get a letter from the Ministry of Justice, or bribe the ministry in order to expedite the process.
Unions leaders locked in legal disputes will also struggle to registers new unions, Mr. Mony added.
The new stipulation comes as the owners of at least 150 garment factories filed legal complaints against the leaders of six unions, including the FTU, which organized national labor strikes in late December that led to the temporary closure of many factories.
Officials at the Ministry of Labor have declined to comment on their decision to start demanding criminal records from union leaders since Mr. Mony complained about the new regulation on Thursday.
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