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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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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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20 September 2019

Cambodia: The Ministry of Labour submits amendments to the Law on Trade Union to the Council of Ministers; unions request more suggestions to be considered

Author: Long Kimmarita, The Phnom Penh Post

"Law on Trade Unions amendment sent to Council of Ministers", 19 September 2019

Ministry of Labour and Vocational Training spokesman Heng Sour said the Supreme Consultation Council supported its decision to submit the amendment of the Law on Trade Unions to the Council of Ministers.

The proposed amendments affect Articles 3, 17, 20, 21, 27, 28, 29, 54, and 59 of the current law and are mostly related to the rights involved in holding demonstrations…

Sour told … that although some bills had been removed and some others had been accepted, the Council of Ministers supported and welcomed the amendment.

“After discussions and getting the Council’s support, the ministry will propose that the bills be included in the meeting agenda with it [the Council],” Sour said.

… Coalition of Cambodian Apparel Workers’ Democratic Union president Ath Thorn said although the Labour Ministry accepted some suggestions from the unions, the percentage of suggestions used in the amendment remains limited.

He asked the government and National Assembly to reconsider and include more union suggestions in the amendment.

“Unions called for the amendment of more than 10 Articles in the current law, but the ministry did not accept all our suggestions,” he said.

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30 May 2019

Cambodia: The Court of Appeal acquits six union leaders of charges involved in deadly protests in January 2014 after having been convicted by the court of first instance

Author: Kunthear Mom, Khmer Times

"Appeal Court overturns convictions of six unionists", 30 May 2019

The Court of Appeal ... quashed the convictions of six union leaders found guilty of instigating violence over their roles in minimum wage protests that turned violent in 2013 and early 2014.

Phnom Penh Municipal Court ... found unionists Ath Thorn, Yang Sophorn, Pav Sina, Mom Nhim, Rong Chhun and Chea Mony guilty of charges ranging from instigating violence to causing damage and obstructing traffic...

The Cambodian Labour Confederation, Mr Thorn’s organisation, ... said the conviction was overturned...

“After the conclusion of the closing statements, the panel [of judges] decided that: the appeals by the union leaders and associations were admissible, rendered the trial decisions as moot and ordered the accused be acquitted of any conviction,” it said in a statement... Mr Thorn said he was not involved in the protests when reached by phone... “I did not do the act Phnom Penh Municipal Court convicted me of,” he said. “I accept the Court of Appeal decision.”…

Mr Sina, president of the Cambodian Alliance of Trade Unions, ... said Mr Hun Sen played an important role in the Court of Appeal decision... However, Mr Sina noted that the unionists are still facing other charges. “I think all charges against union leaders should be dropped because what we are doing is to improve working conditions for workers,” he said... Mr Chhun, president of the Cambodian Confederation of Unions, welcomed the Court of Appeal decision...

Ms Sophorn, Ms Nhim and Mr Mony could not be reached for comment... Moeun Tola, executive director of the labour rights group Central, also welcomed the decision...

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14 May 2019

Members of Dutch agreement on sustainable garments and textile sign letter to Cambodian govt. to express concerns on labour & human rights situation in textile industry

Author: Dutch Agreement on Sustainable Garments and Textile (The Netherlands)

"Clothing brands sign letter to Cambodia government after concerning developments", 06 May 2019
Multiple clothing brands within the Dutch Agreement on Sustainable Garments and Textile have signed a letter to the government of Cambodia to express their concerns regarding the labour and human rights situation in the garments and textile industry. The letter was an initiative by the Fair Labour Association (FLA), in response to various worrying developments in Cambodia. Among these are increasing legislative restrictions of the rights and freedoms of workers. The aim of the letter is to bring the concerns of international brands to the attention of the Cambodian government. Several signatories to the agreement who source from Cambodia have co-signed the letter. This situation also threatens the trade preferences given by the EU and the U.S. to Cambodia. These preferences can be withdrawn if the human right situation deteriorates. Adherence to high labour standards has been an important factor in the success of Cambodia’s garment sector. Many signatories of the letter have previously raised concerns through multiple channels, including in a statement addressing the Cambodian government that was released on April 4th, 2019, and a letter sent on November 1st, 2018.

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3 May 2019

Cambodia: 20 major brands sourcing from Cambodia send a joint letter to PM to express their concerns about labor and human rights

Author: Fair Labor Association

"20 companies sourcing from Cambodia express concerns about labor and human rights", 2 May 2019

Twenty major U.S., Canadian, European, and Hong Kong brands joined to call on Cambodia's prime minister to respond to concerns raised through multiple channels with government leaders.

In a … letter the companies expressed their growing concern regarding the labor and human rights situation in Cambodia, which threatens trade preferences for Cambodia. The European Union’s … decision to review Cambodia’s Everything But Arms benefits, and recently introduced legislation in the U.S. Congress to review Cambodia’s Generalized System of Preferences benefits, are worrying developments for companies that value sourcing from Cambodia.

The companies seek a response to a November 1, 2018 letter that detailed recommendations that, if implemented, could demonstrate real progress toward respecting trade unions and civil society, and keeping Cambodia’s trade benefits in place.

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25 April 2019

Cambodia: Govt. & unions meet to discuss amendments to Trade Union Law deemed restrictive to union freedoms

Author: Davin Sen, Khmer Times

"Trade Union Law amendments to be discussed today", 25 April 2019

Unionist Ath Thorn ... announced that labour rights organisations will hold an advocacy meeting with the government ... to discuss the amendment of articles in the Trade Union Law deemed restrictive to union freedom.

The Trade Union Law took effect in 2016, but unions have decried some articles.

Mr Thorn, who is president of the Coalition of Cambodia Apparel Workers’ Democratic Union, ... said he was ready to advise the government to amend the 10 articles.

“Some articles in this law are restrictive and limit the rights of unions,” Mr Thorn said. “The International Labour Organisation has proposed changes in the past, but there has been no change by the government.”

“By the end of 2018, the government had drafted a roadmap to serve as a reminder that some articles are going to be revised,” he added

... Labour Minister Ith Samheng defended his ministry by saying that the government has been doing its best to help unions.

“Some unions know that some of their complaints were resolved in court,” Mr Samheng said. “The government provides legal assistance to them.”...

“We will discuss the amendments of the articles. Not all articles proposed must be amended, we have to listen together,” Mr Samheng said. “Negotiate until we have reached an agreement.”

He added that the enactment of the Trade Union Law in 2016 was a national achievement geared towards the interest of workers...

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30 January 2019

Cambodia: Better Factories Cambodia indicates improving conditions in Cambodian garment factories; violations continue to exist

Author: Fashionating World

"A Wake up Call for the Cambodian Textile Industry", 29 January 2019

... Better Factories Cambodia (BFC) indicates improving conditions in the country’s garment factories, human rights violations demand new mechanisms for accountability and transparency in these companies.

… It’s crucial that the government, garment industry corporations and international allies support the Cambodian people in pushing for transparency, accountability and better conditions…

The BFC report found improved compliance for international laws around overtime wages, discriminations against employees, child labor, routine evacuation drills, and reprisals for union membership.

However, across the nearly 500 factories surveyed, still 234 violations were registered between November 2017 and May 2018… The survey also found only 11 violations of international child labor laws among 600,000 workers, far fewer than the 74 violations found in 2014.

... the World Bank suggests that demand for Cambodia’s exported textiles is increasing at a rate of 16.1 per cent per year,… Growth is partly due to the European Union’s decision to give Cambodia tariff-free access to their markets under the “Everything but Arms” (EBA) program…

Despite rights violations in the garment industry and the country as a whole, Nike, Adidas, H&M, Gap Inc, and other international brands continue to rely on Cambodia for the manufacture of a significant portion of their products.

H&M recently hosted a summit on fair wages in Phnom Penh and stated that wages for factory workers producing their clothing were 24 per cent higher than the minimum wage, for a total of $210.80 per month. However, Clean Clothes Campaign, …, highlighted H&M’s failure to follow through on its promise to provide minimum wages to its 850,000 garment workers…

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