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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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9 November 2018

Cambodia's Hun Sen eases pressure on unions, as EU sanctions threat looms

Author: Chanthol Prak, Channel News Asia

7 November 2018

Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen told his ministers to ease pressure on labour union leaders …, after threats by the European Union to remove the Southeast Asian country's duty-free trading access…, Hun Sen urged his ministries of justice and labour to speed up or drop any pending court cases against union leaders. "Cases that should be handled, handle them quickly. Cases that are not being handled, drop them, finish them, so that those union leaders don't feel like hostages," Hun Sen said.

"This will open up some freedom space for the unions," he said. "Let's make reconciliation and understanding of each other a priority."…

Representatives from major apparel and footwear companies, including Adidas, New Balance, Nike, Puma, Under Armour, and VF Corporation, met Cambodian government ministers... The companies urged the government to drop what are widely seen as politically motivated criminal charges against trade unionists.

"The prime minister has made a step towards honouring human rights obligations under the EBA agreement with the EU while wooing workers' support for his rule," said political analyst Lao Mong Hay said…

Ath Thon, the president of the Coalition of Cambodian Apparel Workers' Democratic Union, who has 7 pending lawsuits against him and another 50 against his colleagues over labour strikes, said he welcomed Hun Sen's comments.

…"It could be that, firstly, the election is over and the situation is better so they want to solve problems and, secondly, that they want to respond to what development partners want."

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9 November 2018

Labour Ministry receives counsel on labour rights

Author: Chheng Niem, The Phnom Penh Post

9 November 2018

Two US-based organisations sent a letter to the Ministry of Labour and Vocational Training …, following a meeting with it in October to discuss the rights of workers in the Kingdom’s garment and footwear sector, among others.

Fair Labor Association (FLA) and American Apparel & Footwear Association (AAFA) wrote a joint follow-up letter to the minister, Ith Sam Heng, recommending that the government improve workers’ rights.

“At the centre of these recommendations is our view that workers need the freedom to represent and speak for themselves without fear of retaliation or retribution. We hope that this core value will inform whatever reform your government is taking to go forward,” the letter said.

The organisations expressed “particular concerns” over the criminal charges against several union leaders, saying they “undermined the role and reduced the independence of the Arbitration Council …”.

“We urge [the Cambodian] government to guarantee respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms and provide full protection of all human rights defenders in your country…

Moreover, the groups recommended the government to amend some parts in the Law on Associations and Non-Governmental Organisations (Lango) by “removing onerous and intrusive reporting requirements”…

Cambodia Alliance of Trade Union (Catu) president Yan Saphorn said: “I support the recommendations. We work for workers’ rights. We want appreciation, not lawsuits.”

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8 November 2018

PM urges ministers to end all cases against union leaders

Author: Chheng Niem, The Phnom Penh Post

8 November 2018

Prime Minister Hun Sen urged labour and justice ministers … to finish all court cases against union leaders.…, he told the Minister of Labour and Vocational Training Ith Sam Heng and Minister of Justice Ang Vong Vathana to expedite ongoing court cases and to ignore complaints brought against union leaders.

“If you need to try the cases, do it quickly. Otherwise, just ignore or drop them. Don’t make union leaders feel they are hostages to court cases,” he said… He called on employers to ensure freedom for workers and urged workers to refrain from committing criminal offences while exercising their freedom.

“I heard that Moeun Tola had a case in court. When the charge against him was dropped, they welcomed it. So I thought about this. I heard Ath Thon and Yang Sophorn are also facing lawsuits."…

Pav Sina, the president of the Collective Union of Movement of Workers (CUMW), which counts 48 factories as its members, said he had seven unresolved complaints at the provincial and municipal courts…

Ath Thon, the president of the Coalition of Cambodian Apparel Workers’ Democratic Union (CCAWDU) which represents about 80,000 workers and faces seven complaints at court, welcomed the news.

“I’m happy. We have requested an end of court cases for a long time. I think the government may have just realised that what they had done in the past was a restriction of freedom,” he said…

Yang Sophorn, the president of the Cambodia Alliance of Trade Union (CATU) who also has eight lawsuits pending trial, held high hopes that Hun Sen’s appeal would translate into practice.

“I want [Hun Sen’s] order to take effect. He should not just give an order and no one implements it. If all cases are solved, I’d be really happy."…

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7 November 2018

PM Hun Sen creates task force to address civil society concerns

Author: Vicheika Kann, Voice of America

7 November 2018

Prime Minister Hun Sen has created a task force to deal with complaints from civil society groups over government suppression of their activities.

The premier made the announcement …, assigning eight officials to the group, which will be led by Interior Minister Sar Kheng.

“Gather information; study the requests and proposal and share ideas with government, ministries and relevant stakeholders to resolve it. Promote and raise civil society’s awareness and relevant stakeholders [awareness] about associations and NGOs law and regulations,” he wrote…

Civil society representatives said the decision to create the task force was likely made in response to international pressure.

Am Sam Ath, a senior investigator with Licadho, a local rights group, said the plan would only be effective if proposals from civil society were taken seriously and acted on.

“What’s important is their true willingness in the culture of blame. And we want more freedom for civil society to do their job.”…

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2 November 2018

Cambodia: Leading apparel & footwear brands meet with govt. to express concerns about labour rights

Author: Fair Labor Association (USA)

"Leading apparel and footwear brands meet with government to express concerns about worker rights", Oct 23, 2018

Representatives from major apparel and footwear brands, including adidas, New Balance, Nike, Puma, Under Armour, and VF Corporation...met with senior Cambodian government officials to discuss the current state of worker rights...throughout the Cambodian garment, footwear, and travel goods sector. The sector employs more than 700,000 Cambodians – most of whom are women – making it one of the largest sources of employment in the country. "Cambodia has been a good partner to our brands through the years,” said Rick Helfenbein, president and CEO of the American Apparel & Footwear Association... “[t]hat said, we are increasingly concerned about specific policies and actions the government has taken in the past year."

The [representatives] called on the government to drop criminal charges in the cases of several labor leaders, charges that have been pending for years and are widely viewed as politically-motivated. They also urged amendments of the 2016 Law on Trade Unions (TUL) and implementing regulations that limit the ability of Cambodian workers to form and engage freely in trade unions. The protection of fundamental human rights will be critical if Cambodia is to maintain and enhance the confidence of international brands sourcing in Cambodia.  

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