Thirty Unions Call on Labor Ministry to Rethink Draft Law

Thirty labor unions and associations appealed to the Labor Ministry on Friday to redraft its planned Trade Union Law, which they say will suppress industrial action and facilitate union busting, despite significant concessions in the latest draft.

The law has been two years in the making, but the Labor Ministry has said it plans to send a final draft to the Council of Ministers as soon as this month. But despite some key changes, such as lowering the threshold of workers needed to start a union, leaders of the country’s labor movement still say the law will hurt unions. 

Ath Thorn, president of the Coalition of Cambodian Apparel Workers’ Democratic Union, said the most troubling part of the law was a provision that would allow just 25 percent of members to dissolve a union.

“It is this point that continues to concern us most…because unions are created by a majority of people,” he said, adding that the law would also allow only one member to bring a motion to dissolve.

Further threatening unions is a provision that will require more than 50 percent of employees at a given factory to vote for a strike before it can go ahead, said Mr. Thorn.

“I think if this draft is approved, we won’t be able to take strike actions at factories,” he said, “For example, [a factory with] 10,000 workers would need the agreement of 5,000 members plus one before they could strike. How would we be expected to find this number?”

Pav Sina, president of the Collective Union of Movement of Workers, said that the law protected the interests of the government and factory owners.

“[If] this law is approved it will affect the rights of workers throughout the whole country as it will cost them the right to demand change or to join strikes,” he said.

Mam Vannak, a secretary of state at the Labor Ministry, said he had not seen the letter from the unions.

“I don’t know which articles the union leaders mean and they could be confused,” he said.

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