Unions Spurn Work on Draft Union Law

More than a dozen union leaders said on Wednesday that a bipartisan committee formed last month in hopes of easing opposition to a controversial draft union law had failed to fully address any of their main concerns and that they would seek more meetings with the government to press their case.

Last month, lawmakers from the ruling CPP formed an ad hoc committee with the opposition CNRP with the goal of reaching consensus on some of the most conten­tious provisions. After three meetings, the committee ended its work on Tuesday having tweaked some articles but leaving un­touched the ones that unions fear most.

Among the unions’ main concerns with the law are proposed rules for dissolving a union.

“I think that if the National As­sembly approves it, the rights of the independent unions will be restricted and the employers will exploit our labor rights,” Ath Thorn, who heads the country’s largest independent union, said during a press conference in Phnom Penh on Wednesday.

“A union can be created with 10 people, so why does Article 28 say a labor court can dissolve it, or Article 29 say that a relevant party can ask for it, or if there’s support from 50 per­cent plus one [of the members], and if one of the union leaders makes a mistake? It’s too easy,” he said.

The unions also say that the con­dition for going on strike—which requires agreement by more than half the people at a meeting with a quorum of members—is too tough.

“Usually, before a strike, we try the Arbitration Council,” Mr. Thorn said. “If there needs to be a vote of support of 50 plus one, that’s too difficult. I have 110,000 members, so 60,000 is too many for a meeting.”

He added that the unions would this week ask for a meeting with the Labor Ministry to discuss their outstanding concerns.

Labor Ministry spokesman Heng Suor could not be reached for comment.

Employers have also complained to the government about the draft law, mostly about a provision that would let as few as 10 people form a union. They’ve warned that keeping the threshold so low would make it too difficult to bargain with unions and scare away investors.


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