Cambodia: Leading brands suggest labour reforms to the govt. after meeting on labour rights issues

Image via World Bank Photo Collection on Flickr, licensed under (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

Representatives of leading apparel & footwear brands, led by the American Apparel & Footwear Association (AAFA) and the Fair Labor Association (FLA), meet with the govt. to express concerns about labour and worker rights in Cambodia. They meet with senior Cambodian government officials to discuss the current state of worker rights, and opportunities for enhanced collaboration in upholding worker rights throughout the Cambodian garment, footwear, and travel goods sector. FLA and AAFA have sent follow-up letters to the govt. to suggest specific labour reforms.

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27 January 2020

Cambodia: CENTRAL publishes final analysis of Trade Union Law & its amendments; while brands reiterate their call for labour reform


"Final Analysis of Trade Union Law and Amendments to the Trade Union Law", 24 January 2020

This analysis of the Law on Trade Unions (2016) (TUL) and the Law on Amendments to Articles 3, 17, 20, 21, 27, 28, 29, 54, 55 and 59 of the Trade Union Law ... was prepared by CENTRAL with technical support from ACILS... The analysis considers requests for further amendments made by trade unions to the Ministry of Labour and Vocational Training (MoLVT) ... The analysis makes recommendations for further amendments to 25 articles in the TUL as well as to Chapter 15 of the law generally in order to bring the TUL into line with international labour standards and particularly C87 and C98. The recommendations for each Article are listed below. Please view the relevant section for each Article in this analysis for reasoning behind each of the recommendations.

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24 January 2020

Cambodia: 23 brands, brand associations and CSOs send a joint letter calling for the PM to address specific labour rights issues

Author: Fair Labor Association & Others

"Joint Letter on Labor Rights to Cambodian Prime Minister", 23 January 2020

Twenty-three companies and civil society organizations jointly signed a letter to urge the government of Cambodia to take specific, concrete, and time-bound steps to bring Cambodia in line with international labor standards.

The letter details requests that Cambodia amend its Trade Union Law, repeal the Law of Associations and NGOs, drop all outstanding criminal charges against union leaders, and respect and foster the role of the Arbitration Council...

The signatories note that while there has been progress on labor issues in Cambodia, valid concerns remain about the labor and human rights situation in the country and those put trade preferences for Cambodia at risk. The letter follows previous calls for action in 2018 and 2019.

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24 January 2020

Cambodia: Unions plan to protest against the govt's proposed amendments to night shift payment for workers under Labour Law

Author: Kunthear Mom, Khmer Times

"Union to protest Labour Law amendment", 24 January 2020

Union leaders ... warned that garment workers and unionists will protest if the 1997 labour law articles are amended to night and day shift workers receiving equal pay.

..., Labour Minister Ith Samheng formed a working group with represetation from employers, government and workers tasked with discussing amending the Labour Law articles.

The amendment will include Articles 144, 162 and 300, night-shift and day-shift wages and public holiday policy.

It will also incorporate the scope of the Arbitration Council to resolve an individual dispute in Article 300.

Rong Chhun, president of the Cambodian Confederation of Unions, said during the 16th death anniversary of Chea Vichea, former leader of the Free Trade Union of Workers, that he is ready to protest against the amendment as it impacts workers’ benefits.

“The Labour Ministry ammended article 144 by reducing 150 percent of the wages for night-shift workers to 130 percent in 2007. Now it wants to have the same article ammended by reducing 130 percent to 100 percent which is equal to day-shift workers,” Mr Chhun said.

“The amendment will not benefit garment workers,” he said. “Our last choice is to go on strike or demonstrate.”

“I demand the tripartite committee keep the article intact. I want the government to reconsider their decision,” said Ath Thorn, president of Cambodian Labour Confederation...

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23 December 2019

Cambodia: Constitutional Council approves amended Law on Trade Union; while 36 labour groups and NGOs express concerns of ongoing restrictions

Author: Chheng Niem, The Phnom Penh Post

"CCC passes amendments on 10 articles of Trade Union Law", 19 December 2019

The Constitutional Council of Cambodia (CCC) … reviewed and approved the draft law on amendments to 10 articles of the Law on Trade Unions amid criticism from local and international civil society organisations…

“The Constitutional Council of Cambodia unanimously approved the amendments of articles 3, 17, 20, 21, 27, 28, 29, 54, 55 and 59 of the Law on Trade Unions,” said CCC’s press release…

…, Minister of Labour and Vocational Training Ith Sam Heng said the amendments were made at the request of trade unions and relevant stakeholders.

“It cannot satisfy all parties but at least it is much better than before,” he said…

However, a day ahead of the CCC session, local and international civil society organisations wrote a letter to Prime Minister Hun Sen urging him to revisit the provisions of the articles and consider recommendations submitted by civil society stakeholders, the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights and the International Labour Organisation…

They noted that amendments in Article 3 failed to widen the coverage of the law to workers in the informal sector, teachers and other public servants. This would deny workers in small businesses with fewer than 10 workers the opportunity to unionise and exercise their rights…

“The current environment for labour rights advocates, trade union leaders, and civil society activists is not conducive to ensure a genuine improvement of the human rights and labour rights situation in Cambodia,” the statement said…

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18 December 2019

Cambodia: 36 NGOs & labour groups send a joint letter to PM calling for consultations around amended Law & the cease of harassment against unions

Author: Human Rights Watch & Others

"Joint Letter to Prime Minister Hun Sen: Cambodia’s Law on Trade Unions and Cases Against Union Leaders", 18 December 2019

We, the undersigned Cambodian and international civil society organizations, are deeply concerned about the proposed amendments to the Law on Trade Unions (“TUL”), as approved by the Cambodian Senate on December 9, 2019. The 10 proposed amendments to articles 3, 17, 20, 21, 27, 28, 29, 54, 55, and 59 fall short of international labor rights standards and were adopted without an inclusive and genuine consultative process of relevant stakeholders. 

Numerous provisions in the TUL need significant revision. The latest round of TUL amendments further curtail workers’ labor and human rights by severely limiting their freedom of association, and rights to organize and collective bargaining. While we note the proposed minor amendments to the TUL introduced improvements to the previous text, they do not go far enough and have failed to address other problematic issues…

We therefore urge you to revisit these provisions of the TUL, and seriously consider the recommendations made in submissions by civil society stakeholders, the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, and the International Labor Organization. By doing so, the Cambodian government could ensure that legal revisions to the TUL conform to its obligations under international human rights treaties and international labor conventions…

The current environment for labor rights advocates, trade union leaders, and civil society activists is not conducive to ensure a genuine improvement of the human rights and labor rights situation in Cambodia...

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10 December 2019

Cambodia: The Senate approve amendments to the Law on Trade Unions; while unionists claim their suggestions are not considered

Author: Sochan Ry, The Phnom Penh Post

"Senate passes amendments to 10 articles of trade union law", 9 December 2019

The Senate … approved draft amendments to 10 articles of the Law on Trade Unions at the fourth session of the fourth legislature. It did so without modification, following its approval by the National Assembly last month.

The 10 articles comprise Articles 3, 17, 20, 21, 27, 28, 29, 54, 55 and 59 of the Law on Trade Unions, …

Collective Union of Movement of Workers (CUMW) president Pav Sina told … that the approval was not surprising as the National Assembly had never been receptive to suggestions and recommendations from relevant institutions.

He expressed disappointment with the amendments to the trade union law as unions had been proposing a series of ideas even before the law was approved in 2016, but their input had not been incorporated.

For the last amendment, suggestions from the unions were largely ignored and excluded.

“I think they made little revision to the law. So its implementation remains a problem. As we’ve seen, the rights of workers and freedom of unions were restricted by the law. It restricts us to only accompanying workers instead of having the right to represent them,” he said…

Checking financial reports and appointing an independent auditor to inspect activities are also forms of interference in the internal affairs of unions, Sina said, adding that a majority of union statutes had been established under the guidance of the Ministry of Labour and Vocational Training…

Ministry of Labour and Vocational Training spokesman Heng Sour could not be reached for comment…

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5 December 2019

Cambodia: The Ministry of Interior asks NGOs to form a working group to collect common recommendations for proposed amendments to Law on Associations and NGOs

Author: Vida Taing, Khmer Times

"Ministry asks NGOs to form a working group to discuss Lango", 4 December 2019

The Interior Ministry ... asked representatives of local and foreign NGOs to establish a working group to find a common ground for inputs to be included in the draft amendment to the Law on Associations and Non-governmental Organisations.

Speaking to reporters after the second meeting to review draft Lango amendments ..., Bun Honn, a secretary of state at the ministry, said he suggested two dozen leaders representing 450 NGOs in the meeting to work together and address their shared concerns.

“We want them to unite among themselves and come up with joint proposals. I think they should form a working group and conduct a meeting to agree with what they are going to propose during meetings with our ministry officials,” he said. “We today discussed two articles and representatives of NGOs seem to have different opinions about their requests. It becomes an obstacle to the discussion.”

... Soeng Sen Karuna, spokesman for rights group Adhoc, ... said the proposal was initially raised and drafted by a dozen NGOs, which have encountered challenges in their day-to-day activities...

Sok Sam Oeun, board director of election monitoring Comfrel and legal advisor to Transparency International, said the ministry should collect all inputs from all NGOs representatives and work on it to seek the best solution.

Mr Sam Oeun said that formation of a working group among the nearly 6,000 NGOs would be time-consuming...

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27 November 2019

Cambodia: The National Assembly passes amendments to Law on Trade Unions; while unions claim amendments remain restrictive

Author: Narim Khuon, Khmer Times

"Union Law amended", 27 November 2019

The National Assembly ... unanimously passed amendments to the Trade Union Law to promote workers’ rights and ensure union freedom.

The Trade Union Law became effective in 2016, but unions decried some articles, saying they restricted union freedom. CPP lawmakers voted in favour of amendments to ten articles ... that were highlighted by unionists in previous meetings with government officials...

Labour Minister Ith Samheng ... said that the amendments gave more freedom to workers and unions.

... Ath Thorn, president of the Cambodian Labour Confederation, ... expressed his disappointment over the amendments because some articles of the law remain restrictive to workers’ right and union freedoms, in his opinion.

“Little improvement has been made because the ten amended articles are still not good enough for our unions,” Mr Thorn said.

He said that a requested audit of activity and financial reports will result in interference...

He said that articles 54, 55 and 59 in the old law stated that unions have the right to be a representative of the workers to solve labour disputes, but an amendment stipulates that a unionist cannot represent workers.

“The amendment states that we cannot be a representative of the workers to solve disputes; we can only accompany them,” Mr Thorn said.

Pav Sina, president of the Collective Unions of Movement of Worker, echoed Mr Thorn’s remarks.

“These amendments are not enough and do not aim to protect the interest of workers. They reduce unions’ power because our opinions were excluded,” he said. “These amendments still restrict activities of unions. Union leaders will still face challenges.”

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31 October 2019

Cambodia: Govt. officials meet NGOs representatives to gather feedback on proposed amendments to Law on NGOs & Associations

Author: Dara Mech, The Phnom Penh Post

"Gov’t to gather feedback on Lango", 30 October 2019

The Ministry of Interior will hold a meeting with civil society representatives … to gather feedback on the Law on Associations and Non-Governmental Organisations (Lango).

Secretary of state Bun Hun said the meeting was aimed at ensuring society organisations would have their concerns heard after a number of them said Lango posed a serious threat to civil society organisations (CSOs) and NGOs by undermining democracy and restricting freedom.

Hun told …: “We also need to know more about the civil society organisations that proposed the amendments because when we held the forum only a few organisations were representing all of civil society.

“They requested amendments to almost 10 articles in the law. So we would like to understand exactly why they want them and for what reason.

“We collected their input and we studied whether the proposal was appropriate and what articles should be amended,” Bun Hun said.

Local rights group Adhoc spokesman Soeng Sen Karuna said … that some NGOs and CSOs requested the Lango amendments since some of the provisions restricted their freedom of movement and endangered their contributions…

“We want to make adjustments to some articles including punishing any person or officer who violates or obstructs civil society activities. Some articles have restricted our freedom by checking our reporting on our activities and finances,” Karuna said…

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15 October 2019

Cambodia: The govt. approves draft amendment Law on Trade Unions; while unions claim their demands are not fully met

Author: Long Kimmarita, The Phnom Penh Post

"Trade union bill changes passed", 13 October 2019

The Council of Ministers approved draft amendments to 10 articles of the Law on Trade Unions without modification …, leaving some unions disappointed and claiming that the majority of their suggestions had not been included.

Articles 3, 17, 20, 21, 27, 28, 29, 54, 55 and 59 of the Law on Trade Unions are now set to be amended, following their approval at the plenary session of the Council of Ministers chaired by Prime Minister Hun Sen ...

However, some unions expressed disappointment after having requested that the government include their input to improve the situation in the garment sector.

Collective Union of Movement of Workers president Pav Sina said … that it was a positive step for the government to make amendments to the trade union law, because some articles had limitations and presented obstacles to unions and workers.

But he said the government had only accepted a small portion of the unions’ suggestions…

Cambodian Labour Confederation president Ath Thorn said no changes were made at the Council of Ministers because the institution generally toes the government line.

‘‘There is usually little change to laws proposed by the government, despite demands from civil society organisations and unions,” he said.

Thorn said only a small amount of the unions’ proposals had been incorporated into the draft law that would now reach the National Assembly.

“Out of 15 articles that the unions proposed amending, we see only 10 have been amended by the Council of Ministers…

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