Government Sets Deadline for Trade Union Law

Representatives of the International Labor Organization (ILO) on Thursday met with Labor Ministry officials to discuss the draft trade union law, which the government plans to put into effect by the end of 2014, an ILO representative said.

Tun Sophorn, the ILO’s national coordinator in Cambodia, said an ILO industrial relations specialist and an ILO international labor specialist met with Ministry of Labor Secretary of State Mam Vannak, the head of the team reviewing the draft law, and other government officials at the ministry Thursday afternoon.

“The trade union law has been a draft for two years or more already. The government was so busy lately and not moving forward. So we wanted to follow up. The government wants this law adopted by the end of this year. Their timeline is set at that,” said Tun Sophorn, the ILO’s national coordinator in Cambodia.

“[The government] wants to review the current draft internally, but also for us, we want to see the final draft before it is submitted again to the Council of Ministers. We want it to be reviewed by trade unions and employers,” he added.

The law was first drafted in 2010, but has made little progress since then.

In 2011, independent trade unions demanded several changes to the draft law, including changing a two-year limit on union leadership to five years; decreasing fines for union leaders participating in demonstrations that result in public disturbances; and removing the minimum education requirement for union leaders.

Pav Sina, president of the Collective Union of Movement of Workers, said Thursday that the draft law is a way to control the unions and said the government has not listened to their suggestions.

“This draft law tries to tighten the unions’ rights. It will make the unions harder to exercise their rights. It contrasts with Cambodia’s Constitution and ILO’s treaty,” he said.

“We offer suggestions, but they always reject our suggestions. It is still a controversial draft law and it brings trouble for the unions.”

Also Thursday, the ILO began a three-year project aimed at providing “better and more services…to deal with instances of labor dispute at the factories,” said Mr. Sophorn.

“The main objective is to improve industrial relations in the garment industry and social dialogue,” he said about the project, which is supported by Swedish clothing line H&M and the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency.

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