Experts yesterday urged the Ministry of Labor to extend the latest draft of a forthcoming trade union law to include civil servants, who are currently shut out of the law in contravention of international conventions.
“I can understand the politics of not wanting government employees, actual ministry employees [to unionize]. But in Cambodia, civil service refers to teachers…refers to nurses. None of these people are allowed to unionize. It’s an outrage,” said Dave Welsh, country director of the American Center for International Labor Solidarity.
Mr Welsh, however, said the government does deserve credit for changes to the draft it has already made.
Rong Chhun, president of both the Cambodian Confederation of Unions and the Cambodian Independent Teachers Association, hinted yesterday that demonstrations might take place if the law is not revised to include civil servants.
“It is important to give them the right to unionize and collectively bargain,” he said. “This complies with being a democratic country and it complies with the Constitution and [International Labor Organization conventions].”
“If it is not put in the draft, we will struggle for it,” Mr Chhun added. “Strikes and protests might take place.”
Whether the suggested proviso will be included in a new draft expected next month is unclear. The fourth draft, released in September, had been tentatively praised by unionists and observers for including a number of demands put forth in the revision process. The inclusion of civil servants in the next draft, however, appears unlikely said Mr Welsh. “At ministerial levels, they out and out refuse to allow for civil servants,” he said.
Ho Vuthy, deputy director of the Ministry of Labor’s general department of labor, declined to speculate on the alteration’s prospects.
“Concerning this problem, the government is working on it, and we accepted [previously] the recommendations from the unions and community. We are working on this, so don’t ask if this will be put in the draft or not.”