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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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2 March 2020

Cambodia: Govt. establishes an inter-ministerial inspection team to monitor labour compliance

Author: Kunthear Mom, Khmer Times

"Three ministries to jointly monitor manufacturing sector", 2 March 2020

Three ministries have set up a joint team to monitor the manufacturing sector’s compliance with existing regulations, including workplace conditions, in a bid to avoid overlapping inspections.

According to a joint directive ..., the team will comprise of officials from the Labour, Industry and Handicrafts and Environment ministries.

The directive ... was signed by Minister of Labour Ith Samheng, Minister of Industry and Handicraft Cham Prasidh and Minister of Environment Say Samal.

“The establishment of the Inter-Ministerial Inspection team aims at conducting a joint inspection to oversee the implementation of regulations and normative letters by enterprises and institutions in the labour, industry and handicrafts and the environment sectors,” it said.

Heng Sour, a Labour Ministry spokesman, said ... the formation of the joint team follows a directive by Prime Minister Hun Sen during the 18th Government-Private Sector Forum ...

Collective Union of Movement of Workers president Pav Sina said ... that it is good  the three ministries will jointly inspect labour conditions, environment and the other issue in the enterprises or factories to ensure the managements follow and fully implement regulations and employment standards...

Mr Sina added that it will not be effective if the team only inspects factories or enterprises once a year ...

“I think if these three ministries want factories to implement better working conditions and follow regulations and the labour law, they have to conduct regular inspections,” he said. “They have to monitor each factory at least once in three months and not just once per year.”

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14 February 2020

Cambodia: Govt. rejects CSOs' request to repeal Law on Associations and NGOs following a joint statement from 100 CSOs

Author: Dara Mech, The Phnom Penh Post

"Ministry rejects request to repeal law on NGOs", 14 February 2020

The Ministry of Interior has rejected a request by some 100 civil society organisations to repeal the Law on Associations and NGOs (Lango)…

The rejection came after some 100 organisations released a joint statement demanding that the government amend some articles in the law.

They said the current Lango affects not only well-established NGOs but also associations and local communities operating throughout the country.

…, the ministry said: “The law had been consulted publicly and widely for 20 years before being passed ... The ministry has welcomed input from stakeholders and agreed to accept proposals for amendments to some articles of the law.

“The ministry hopes to continue discussions to find a consensus on amendments to some other articles in the near future,” it said…

Rights group Licadho’s monitoring manager Am Sam Ath defended the proposal, saying it reflected the reality and challenges encountered by NGOs and associations throughout the Kingdom…

Ministry secretary of state Bun Hun, who oversees amendments to the law, declined to comment ...

The NGOs’ joint statement insisted the Lango in its current state was unnecessary and merely a tool to restrict freedom of expression and assembly, and establishment of organisations.

… “We believe civil society, local communities and associations should be able to carry out their work towards developing Cambodia without restriction, violation and interference imposed by the current Lango,” the statement said.

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12 February 2020

Cambodia: 100 NGOs & communities issue a joint letter calling on govt. to repeal Law on Associations and NGOs; while govt. calls CSOs to seek advice

Author: Dara Mech, The Phnom Penh Post

"CSOs asked to seek legal advice over amendments", 11 February 2020

Ministry of Interior secretary of state Bun Honn called on civil society organisations (CSOs) to seek legal advice to better understand and participate during the ongoing amendment procedure for the Law on Associations and Non-Governmental Organisations (Lango).

He was speaking during a meeting at the ministry’s headquarters … to review the contents of the amendments…

“Amending or enacting each law is difficult and requires a great deal of engagement with legal experts because the spirit of the law is aimed at the objective of each of its articles,” Honn was quoted ...

“The next session will be held to gather important input from the CSOs and submit them to the Royal Government for a procedural review,” he said.

Coalition of Cambodian Farmer Community director Theng Savoeun said CSOs have sufficient lawyers and experts at their disposal and have held internal meetings before meeting with the ministry…

“We discussed three articles [of the Lango], including Articles 10, 11, and 20, which CSOs noted have some [negative] impact on the people and civil society,” said Savoeun.

A senior CSO official, …, said several key articles needed to be amended, including Article 11. CSOs have called for the first paragraph to be removed, while the ministry has insisted it be kept…

However, …, 100 CSOs and associations issued a joint statement calling on the government to scrap Lango entirely on grounds that it is unnecessary and merely a tool to restrict freedom of assembly, organisation establishment and expression…

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10 February 2020

Cambodia: Unions urge govt. to revoke three articles in a draft amendment to the Labour Law; unions claim proposed amendments affect workers' benefits

Author: Kunthear Mom, Khmer Times

"Unions urge Minister to revoke articles", 10 February 2020

A group of unions have sent a letter to Labour Minister Ith Samheng requesting him to revoke three articles in the draft amendment to the Labour Law which they claim damage the interests of workers.

Fourteen union leaders signed the joint request submitted to Mr Samheng ... and urged him to consider revoking Articles 144, 162 and 300.

The unions included the Cambodian Labour Confederation, Collective Union of Movement of Workers, Workers Friendship Union Federation, Independent Democracy of Informal Economy Association and the Building and Wood Workers Trade Union Federation of Cambodia.

CLC president Ath Thorn said ... that the group is concerned that these articles infringe the rights of Cambodian workers.

“The majority of workers’ unions in the Kingdom have expressed their objection to any creation or amendment of a law that causes them to lose their rights or other benefits,” he said.

... The Labour Ministry’s draft amendment includes Articles 144, 162 and 300 which cover night-shift and day-shift wages and public holiday policy.

For example, Article 162 states that if a public holiday falls on Sunday, workers will have the following day off but the amendment will remove this benefit.

... Heng Sour, a spokesman for the Labour Ministry, said ... that he did not care what others think about the amendments because the ministry is responding to economic conditions...

The Garment Manufacturers Association in Cambodia is supporting the amendment of the law and said the move will improve working conditions and competitiveness.

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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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