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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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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16 January 2019

Cambodia: Ministry of Labour issue a letter requiring officials to strictly follow the Trade Union Law to facilitate union registration

Author: Kunthear Mom, Khmer Times

"Labour officials must follow procedures", 16 January 2019

Labour Minister Ith Samheng ... ordered ministry officials to strictly follow provisions in the Trade Union Law, especially those related to protecting unions, but union leaders have reacted with scepticism.

In a letter ... issued by the ministry yesterday, Mr Samheng outlined procedures on registering unions and instructed officials charged with dealing with labour disputes and inspections, ..., to strictly follow the provisions.

“In order to ensure and improve the freedom of vocational organisations in Cambodia, I am requesting all officials in labour departments to follow the Trade Union Law, especially the implementation of procedures to protect union officials and union leaders,” he said.

Mr Samheng said that officials should not require union leaders to provide information on family members or other personal details, including showing their National Social Security Fund card, when they apply to register a union but should give them a grace period of 45 days to do so.

“Local union leaders also need not come to the ministry to register their unions but can do so through the federation of unions or confederation of unions,” he said.

Pav Sina, Collective Union of Movement of Workers president, ... said that he had just received a copy of Mr Samheng’s instructions and it really shocked him.

“I am really surprised because the letter is dated December 14 and the Labour Ministry just released it this morning,” he said. “It seems as if the ministry did not intend to publish it.”...

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10 January 2019

Cambodia: A union leader files an appeal complaint against his conviction of his role in violent protests of workers in 2014

Author: Long Kimmarita, The Phnom Penh Post

"Union chief Rong Chhun lodges complaint to court", 10 January 2019

Cambodian Confederation of Unions president Rong Chhun … filed a complaint to the Appeal Court against the suspended jail term handed down by the Phnom Penh Municipal Court for his alleged role in 2014 Veng Sreng Boulevard protests that turned violent.

…, six union leaders were given two and a half year suspended sentences for “intentional acts of violence with aggravating circumstances”, and ordered to pay five million riel (around $1,250) each in compensation to two plaintiffs.

Pav Sina of the Collective Union of Movement of Workers, Yang Sophorn, of the Cambodian Alliance of Trade Unions, Ath Thorn, of the Coalition of Cambodian Apparel Workers Democratic Union, Mom Nhim, of the National Independent Federation Textile Union of Cambodia, and Chea Mony, the former president of the Free Trade Union, were also convicted.

Sina, Sophorn and Thorn have already filed appeals and are awaiting a court date.

Chhun told … that he was innocent and was not even on Veng Sreng Boulevard when the protests occurred…

He said the January 2014 protests sought an increase in the minimum wage for garment workers to $160 per month and that he and the workers were victims, not criminals.

“I filed a complaint to the Appeal Court because I cannot accept the Phnom Penh Municipal Court’s decision. The decision was unfair for me and five other union leaders."…

Neither Phnom Penh Municipal Court spokesperson Ly Sophana nor Appeal Court spokesman Touch Tharith could be reached for comment ...

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31 December 2018

Cambodia: Convicted union leaders call for independent investigation into 2014 garment workers crackdown

Author: Hul Reaksmey, VOA

"Four Convicted Union Leaders Call for New Independent Investigation Into Deadly 2014 Crackdown", 28 December 2018

Four Cambodian union leaders who were convicted over their alleged involvement in organizing garment worker strikes that led to the deaths of at least five people in early 2014 have called for an independent inquiry into the use of force against protesters...

Yang Sophoan, president of the Cambodian Alliance of Trade Unions, said she had “requested to have a clear and impartial investigation comprising all relevant parties.”

Garment workers conducted a large-scale strike in late 2013 and early 2014 in industrial areas of Phnom Penh that led to a deadly showdown with military police and paratroopers...

...Gen. Khieu Sopheak, spokesman for the Ministry of Interior, told VOA that only the courts could order new investigation...

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29 December 2018

Cambodia: 95 international and local NGOs express serious concerns over the conviction of six union leaders in a joint statement despite PM's intervention

Author: Meta Kong, The Phnom Penh Post

"Ninety-five NGOs condemn convictions of union leaders", 25 December 2018

Ninety-five NGOs have issued a joint statement condemning the convictions of six union leaders for their roles in a minimum wage protest at Veng Sreng Boulevard in Phnom Penh....

…, Ath Thorn, Chea Mony, Mam Nhim, Pav Sina, Rong Chhun and Yang Sophorn were each handed two-and-a-half year suspended prison sentences by the Phnom Penh Municipal Court and ordered to pay compensation of 35 million riel ($8,750) to two victims, Chea Sophany and Tim Vuthy…

The NGOs’ statement criticised the court for not providing sufficient credible evidence.

“At trial, prosecutors failed to produce any evidence to establish that the six had committed the crimes they were charged with, nor were any witnesses produced to prove the accused had acted violently during the protests."

“Importantly, no evidence was submitted to prove that the six union leaders had instigated any of the acts with which they were charged. Further, none of the actual perpetrators of violence or damage were named or charged,” the statement read."…

Pav Sina, the president of the Collective Union of Movement of Workers, said he had already filed a complaint to the Appeal Court ...

The president of the Cambodia Alliance of Trade Union Yang Sophorn said she had also filed an appeal … and welcomed the NGOs’ statement…

Ministry of Justice spokesman Chin Malin considered the statement an example of freedom of expression.

“It’s their right to issue [the statement] but dropping the charges is the court’s decision and the decision has already been made,” he said.

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