Unions, NGOs Wary of Meeting With Government Over Draft Law

The government kicked off a three-day hearing on a draft law that aims to regulate the country’s trade unions yesterday, the last chance unions and NGOs will have to meet with the government over the plan.

But some of those unions and NGOs yesterday said they had little faith the government was listening.

“I don’t have any hope because since the consultation last year very few recommendations from the unions have been incorporated,” said Moeun Tola, head of the Com­munity Legal Education Center’s labor program.

He said a new draft of the law released last week appeared to include none of the major recommendations they offered the government in July.

At the time, they complained about provisions that held whole unions responsible for the transgressions of individuals, gave the government the power to dissolve unions and required them to disclose their financial records.

Mr Tola said the last draft ap­peared to make matters worse by broadening the grounds on which the government may suspend unions. He worried that new lines letting company executives to form their own unions would also hurt.

“That kind of union could be a pro-employer union, which can work against the pro-worker unions,” he said.

“After three meetings in the first round…we haven’t seen any significant changes and corrections,” said Cambodian Confederation of Un­ions President Rong Chhun.

“They [government officials] said they don’t make this law by themselves because they take ideas from other unions,” he said. But Mr Chhun said that was only a show for international observers and that the only unions the government appeared to be listening to were pro-employer.

“It seems that our country is moving in the wrong direction on democracy and that it is the time for advocacy groups to shut their mouths,” he said.

Huon Soeur, deputy director of the Labor Ministry’s labor dispute department, declined to comment on the union’s recommendations and re­ferred questions to undersecretary of state Sath Samuth. Neither Mr Samuth nor Secretary of State Oum Mean could be reached.

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